Monday, March 2, 2009

New Buzzwords that Need Banishing

Most everyone knows or has heard about "Buzzword Bingo." That's the game where you listen to the corporate drones talk about the latest initiative and mark off the buzzwords they use in their presentation.

The best communications are simple, clear and are easy to understand. Buzzwords hinder clarity and tend to add little if anything to your audience's understanding. In my media training, I spend a lot of time working these buzzwords and phrases out of my client's vocabulary. I have been thinking about buzzwords lately because there are some new ones that have overstayed their welcome. Sadly, most people know buzzwords add nothing, but use them anyway.

Some of the new words or phrases that need to be added to the Bingo card include:

Buzzword or Phrase:

At the end of the day

Why it doesn't work:
The Cambridge Idiom Dictionary defines this phrase as "something you say before you say what you believe to be the most important fact of a situation." Media trainers would call this a "flag." Flags are good in that they focus people's attention, especially in oral communication. A more preferable flag would be "The most important thing I can say is..." or "What's most important is..." I guess I can live with it as a flag when someone is speaking, but I see it in writing all the time. Especially in news releases. People's attention spans are short today. Why waste what little attention people have on a phrase that adds nothing and is in no way distinctive?

Buzzword or Phrase:
That being said

Why it doesn't work:
People use this when they want to offer contrasting thought to those they have previously written or spoken. For example, "We have a great team and you have all contributed to our success. That being said, the economic uncertainty means we're going to have to layoff 10% of our workers." People often use "that being said" as a way to portray false thoughtfulness. The other downside is that it takes you far away from story-telling. You could say "I've thought a lot about this..." and engage your audience far more effectively than if you use the stilted "that being said" or its shorter cousin "that said."

Buzzword or Phrase:
Time-critical decisions

Why it doesn't work:
All decisions are time-critical. At some point, a decision has to be made. When that point arrives, it will be the time-critical point. This phrase adds nothing but a false air of urgency.

Buzzword or Phrase:
Mission critical

Why it doesn't work:
This is another phrase used to create a false sense of urgency. If you have to say "mission critical" whatever you are referring to probably isn't.

Buzzword or Phrase:
I'm just saying

Why it doesn't work:
We live in a snarky world and this comment usually follows some form of sarcastic comment. People say it to lessen the impact of the preceding sarcasm. The phrase assumes the listener knows what you are implying by saying "I'm just saying..." I say if you're going to be snarky, be snarky. Don't apologize for it.

Buzzword or Phrase
Solution (in any form, i.e. Web-based solution, best-in-class solution)

Why it doesn't work:
People use this term to let people know that they are doing something that will solve a problem. I have been around a long time and I've never encountered anyone who is offering a problem. Telling me your product offers a solution tells me nothing about it. Be distinctive and tell me what the product does.

True Confession:
I have succumbed to this word. In fact, one of my clients used a slogan I wrote with the word "solutions" in it and actually put it on a coffee mug. But, we were up against a time-critical decision to come up with a marketing plan for the mission-critical services provided by this company. That being said, we did consider other slogans. At the end of the day, "Delivering the Solutions that Power Freedom" won out.

I'm just saying.

Bill Salvin

1 comment:


    Language like this always makes me cringe. "Solutions" is especially grating. Or the "is is" epidemic.

    This needs to be shouted from the rooftops.