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Business Entrepreneurs

June 25th, 2008 by Bob Bly

A radio spot for Web site developer American Eagle tells how the company created a successful Web site for a “business entrepreneur.”

Business entrepeneur? As opposed to all those entrepreneurs who have nothing to do with business?

Obviously, “business entrepreneur” is redundant — given that the Oxford English dictionary defines an “entrepreneur” as “a person who sets up a business.”

Is using the term “business entrepreneur” a bad thing?

Admittedly, it’s not a huge sin.

But it bothers me — especially in a commercial for a company in the communications business.

The problem with redudancy is twofold. First, it wastes words. Second, it demonstrates suboptimal language skills.

I might trust American Eagle to design my Web site … but not to write the copy for it.

Your thoughts?


This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2008 at 7:17 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

85 responses about “Business Entrepreneurs”

  1. S.P. Gass said:

    I agree with you. I was critiquing one of my own headlines yesterday, “Facebook Accounts Are Completely Unnecessary.” Completely is probably a wasted word in that something is either unnecessary or necessary, never partially necessary?

  2. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:


    This reminds me of William Safire’s rant on Free Gifts: “What other kinds of gifts are there?” But he added:
    “In this week’s harangue, I seem to be taking apart the work of the advertising copywriter: the target is inviting, but some of the most careful English is used in advertising copy. Many copywriters are unnecessarily self-conscious about their commercial craft–indeed, they should be prouder of their contribution to vivid and persuasive language.”



  3. dianacacy said:

    In this case, the redundancy is very blatant to me. But I would have to examine the voice, the target audience, and the image the website is going for. In everyday talk, I know many people do put the words together. (I’m in the midwest, where there are some ‘abnormalities’ afloat.)

    But there are better ways to target these words. My question would be, “Is there a purpose to adding ‘business’?” For instance, if this is targeting people just going into business for the first time, “New Entrepreneur” sounds better. Better yet, just say “New Business Owner”. Many new business owners are not in the mindset yet to know what entrepreneur means on a conscious level… at least in my observations.

    My aim though is to cut out as much redundancy as possible from the copy. Unless something comes up that makes the redundancy speak to the targeted audience specifically on a personal level, I’d lose it.

  4. AnotherBobHere said:

    Geezzz Picky Picky Picky oh sorry am I being redundant?? I don’t think that is going to make or break them unless they are selling to an English Professor.

  5. Bob Bly said:

    AnotherBobHere: I said in my post that it’s not a huge sin and I agree it won’t make or break them. The question is whether grammar, punctuation, spelling, and other writing mistakes harm a company’s credibility enough to damage the brand or decrease response. What do you think?

  6. Jesse Hines said:

    Using the term “business entrepreneur” IS bad.

    I’m not sure it will really hurt their business, though, as many businesspeople aren’t as in tune with great speech or communication.

    However, as a writer myself, it immediately makes me think less of them.

  7. Craig Hysell said:

    Is the credibility of this particular message damaged among this company’s target audience? Probably not to a very significant degree. (It would be interesting to test though.)

    Is redundancy, grammar, spelling and content something every copywriter should be constantly assessing? If you want to be a professional, absolutely.

    Do people make mistakes? Of course, that’s how we learn.

    At the risk of sounding redundant, not a major sin in this context (in my opinion), but a nice reminder on proper use of craft.

  8. Dianna Huff said:

    “Free Gift” has always made me cringe. I hate the term. Gifts are free. If a copywriter is any good, he or she will describe the gift — free report, free magazine, free whatever.

    “Free gift” bothers me a lot more than “business enterpreneur.”

  9. Dianna Huff said:

    That should be “entrepreneur.”

  10. Bob Bly said:

    Dianna: experienced DM writers know that whenever you give away something free, should say it is free — usually more than once; e.g., “And the bonus CD is yours absolutely FREE — our gift to you. It won’t cost you a penny.” In direct response, we cannot let our subjective judgment — our personal likes and dislikes — get in the way of writing what works.

  11. Dianna Huff said:

    Bob, I can handle, “And the bonus CD is yours absolutely FREE — our gift to you. It won’t cost you a penny.”

    I can’t handle — “We’ll send you a free gift!” I have seen this more times than I count.

    In your sentence, you named the “gift” — the bonus CD — and to make sure people understood they didn’t have to pay for it, you said it was free.

    But you did not say, “Respond today and we’ll send you a free gift!”

  12. Dianna Huff said:

    Insert “can” before “count.” 😮

  13. Lou Wasser said:

    An economist once told me that the true meaning of “entrepreneur” should be understood more broadly. He felt that a university type, for instance, who moves upward through her career from grant to grant should be viewed as an entrepreneur.

    No doubt he would have also thought that a chassidic rabbi I know who sports a website with some very snazzy copy is also an entrepreneur.

    Bob, while the Oxford English Dictionary does seem to restrict the activities of an entrepreneur to business, if you go to, a nifty compilation of a hundred and one dictionaries, and then click on to “search all dictionaries,” you’ll get a slightly broader meaning: “someone who organizes a business venture and assumes the risk for it.”

    It is this element of risk that the economist was looking for — an element which brings the rabbi and the grants seeker and a lot of other folks into the entrepreneurial fold.

    All this said, Bob, the example you gave does sound strained. Is it possible that the writer was trying to avoid writing the antifeminist “businessMAN” and the silly sounding “businessPERSON,” and wound up tripping over his own copy?

  14. CharityPrater said:

    I think that advertisers do very well in marketing when they use spelling, grammar, and other errors.

    Think of this phrase “Think Smart.”

    Now, we all know that it should be “Think Smartly” to be correct, but you see this being done everywhere. It has always bugged me but it works.

  15. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Dianna and Bob,

    I never tested it, but I would be willing to bet that the phrase “Free Gift” pulls better than just saying “gift.” I’d rather win a customer than please my English teacher.

    One editor started changing sentences in an article of mine that started with “And” or “But.” I held my ground and rejected the changes… no ifs ands or buts!

    Rudolf Flesch wrote a chapter in “The Art of Readable Writing” called “Did Shakespeare Make Mistakes in English?” Yes he did. And so what?! If Mark Twain had stuck to the rules of grammar… we wouldn’t have “Huckleberry Finn”!

    What’s important is what works. Yes, Dianna. It’s always good to be specific. And a Free CD may work better than a generic “gift.” But the phrase “Free Gift” resonates in a way that triggers a visceral response. And response is what it’s all about.


  16. Bob Bly said:

    Lou: If an entrepreneur is defined by the source you cite as “someone who organizes a business venture,” doesn’t that make “business entrepreneur” redundant?

  17. CharityPrater said:

    To play the devil’s advocate, you could explain this by saying that you are narrowing entrepreneur down to business-oriented rather than, say, an environmental entrepreneur or a political entrepreneur. However, it’s a lame excuse.

  18. Lou Wasser said:


    My point was that “business entrepreneur” is strained and a poor choice of words because it comes off as redundant, but if you consider “entrepreneur” in its most recent incarnations, “business entrepreneur” is not a perfect redundancy.

  19. Apryl Parcher said:

    Bob: Since this is a radio spot and not a written advertisement, do you think that makes a difference?

    If I had written “Attention Business Entrepreneurs” in a headline for any printed piece, I’m sure my phone would ring with a few indignant English professors, retired librarians and itchy copywriters, which may not be my market, but could make me feel badly about the copy regardless. That is, unless I made a wheelbarrow full of money from that ad.

    I hear lots of bad grammar in radio spots, and yes, it makes me cringe, but might the redundancy issue here be outweighed by the nature of the medium–where the auditory message may get scant attention from drivers only listening with one ear? They may need to hear that second word to pay enough attention to think about picking up the phone. Thoughts?

  20. Bill Huddleston, CFC Expert said:

    One reason as to why “business entrepreneur” is perhaps not as redundant as some of the posts have indicated, is the rise of the term “social entrepreneur” in the non-profit sector. I just did a google search and it comes back with about a million hits, so not as large as the for-profit term, but not insignificant either.\

    Bill Huddleston, CFC Expert

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