Do I add value? asked a man walking past me on a train platform. I almost laughed out loud until I realized he was talking on a hands-free phone and possibly repeating a question from an employer who had questioned his worth.*
Adding value is a popular claim nowadays. Maybe it will help you keep a job.
In the European Union, if a company adds value to a product at some stage of production, it pays a tax on the value added: a value-added tax.
But what in the world is a value-added product?
We expect the companys increasing emphasis on its high-margin value-added products to positively affect its results, stated Forbes stated on April 7, 2015, in an article about the aluminum manufacturer Alcoa. A Google news search on April 14 for value-added turned up 143,000 results, some of which made sense but a lot of which were incomprehensible phrases such as value-added services and a value-added distributor.
How did a meaningful phrase get turned into a meaningless business buzzword? I suspect that some business type heard the words value added and liked the sound but had no clue to the meaning and started sticking them everywhere.
If a product, distributor, or service adds value, its a value-adding product, distributor, or service. Grammatically, its like the difference between a gold-plated machine and a gold-plating machine. A machine might be plated with gold, but a product cannot be added with value. Its nonsense.
But a grammatically correct turn of phrase still might be an empty buzzword. What exactly do the value-adding product, distributor, or service add, and for whom? It would be more convincing to hear some specific benefits conferred by the product, distributor, or service rather than a promise of vague value.
If, when editing, you see a value-added anything that isnt a tax, please kill it with a stick. But dont stop with fixing the grammar. See whether theres any real meaning in it and try to bring that out.
* This anecdote is repeated from my Commuter Crossroads column that appeared in the Fredericksburg, Virginia, Free LanceStar newspaper on March 2, 2008.