Take A Moment To Think About The Business Buzzword That Drives You Most Crazy.
Every industry has buzzwords and they may very well be different for you than they are for me.
So think about your least favorite. Is it…
Each of those makes me cringe a little… especially “next level” because couldn’t the next level be down?
Put that in your marketing pipe and smoke it.
We’ve had some fun here with buzzwords before. We ranted about the constant use of terms like “Ninja” and “Guru”, especially appended to other words like “social media.”
We’ve even complained about less-buzzy words like “expert”.
And yet as I sat down to consider the buzzword that most irritated me, the one I would eradicate from the marketing lexicon if I had the power of the Internet Red Pen, nothing inspired.
But this post is part of my monthly Word Carnival, where I get together with a bunch of super smart and amazing business owners and we choose a topic to write about. And the topic this month is about eliminating buzzwords.
So as I sat and pondered and ate a few cookies and threw the idea at Ralph, something unexpected popped up. A word that almost slipped by on the virtue of its own invisibility. A word that is so common and so accepted and so ordinary that it slides over your tongue as easily as saying “and”, “but” or “the”.
The word that I want to eliminate right now, with prejudice is…
The Case Against Buzzwords
I bet you know why we all hate buzzwords so much. They’re overused. They’re cliché. They’re sometimes downright silly.
They probably started as someone’s clever idea and then someone else tried to be clever by borrowing it and before you knew it every business was offering client-focused synergy delivered by high-powered gurus.
Buzzwords become buzzwords when we hear something enough times that we start to unhear it. I’d bet that the first person who gave an inspiring speech and compelled the audience to take their businesses to the “next level” received great applause.
But then the idea got coopted by… well, everyone. We all want a little applause, right?
But by nature of being a buzzword, that word becomes overused. It loses its impact. It loses its meaning. We stop paying attention to it. Worse, our customers stop paying attention to it. And our marketing copy languishes, full of stale writing with no real message, nothing unique or even interesting to compel people to do business with us.
Too many times using a buzzword is an excuse for lazy writing. We pick a word we’ve heard a thousand times and, smug in our conviction that we’re “with it”, we go ahead and pepper our writing with jargon that we think will prove we’ve got insider secret industry knowledge.
These are the lies we tell ourselves.
There’s no excuse for lazy writing. Smart thinkers (thought-leaders, even!) create new words every day. Smart thinkers play with language and think about how they can say something that means something to their audience.
Which leads me back to why the word “buzzword” must die.
Death To The Buzzword
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the word “buzzword”.
Just as there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking your business to the next level.
They’re just words used to express an idea. But the problem with “buzzword” is that it draws a line around a group of words and labels them “Do Not Use”.
It eliminates a swath of vocabulary from our arsenal and sends us off looking for something that may very well be less effective.
So, should we be using buzzwords or not?
No. And yes. And… I have no idea.
If that sounds too vague then here’s what you should be doing: thinking about the words and language and tone and messages that will resonate with your audience and using those.
Not the ones that will impress your audience. If you’re using any words to sound important or because you think it shows that you know what you’re talking about, stop.
Hit the delete key immediately.
Your words should resonate with your audience. That means that what you say means something to them in a way that they understand, in a way that they relate to, in a way that reflects who you are what people can expect from you.
When I hear or read the word “epic”, specifically in relation to “content”, as in “Do you want to generate leads on your blog? Then write epic content!” I despair the fate of the human race.
I would never ever ever in a billion trillion zillion years advise you or my clients or anyone to “write epic content” as part of their marketing strategy. I don’t even know what that means. And maybe some of my audience is still out there looking for the perfect blog post that will teach them the five easy steps to writing epic content. But that’s not for me to teach. It doesn’t fit my approach to marketing or writing and it doesn’t fit the direction I want to help people take their own writing and marketing.
But you’re not me.
And if that is you and your audience does connect with the idea of “epic” anything, then don’t eliminate that word just because I said so.
Your job isn’t to follow trends or even to reject them. It’s to know your audience and communicate with them in the most effective way possible.
And if you can honestly tell me that the best word for the job is “epic”, then go for it.
Be as epic as you want to be.
Make Your Words Earn Their Way
Every word should earn its place in your writing and even in your speaking.
So let’s stop categorizing words and let’s start using them – the most effective ones possible – to communicate exactly what we want to say. No more. No less.
If you use a word and it sounds overused or silly or it doesn’t express your purpose then throw it out.
I don’t care if it’s called a buzzword or just a noun.
And don’t use words just because everyone else does and you think that’s what people want to hear.
Be smarter than that. Be smarter than to follow the crowd. Be smart enough to know who you’re speaking to and what works when you do. Skip the jargon, period. Skip the trite, the overused, the underwhelming.
In fact, go ahead and call something a buzzword! I thought I would kill it off today but it heard what I said and started fighting back. It’s still kicking in the trunk so I’m going to let it out.
In the meantime, how about you share a word that YOU want to wipe out of your vocabulary? The one that would never work for you and sounds stupid even as you think it.
Go ahead… I’m all buzzed about it.
P.T. Barnum was a man of many words, which he used to promote hoaxes and circus acts. These days, a whole cadre of words belong to a genre known as jargon. These jibber-jabber nonsense words have come to be a nuisance for legitimate businesspeople and the elixir of life for the more unscrupulous snake oil salesmen in our midst. This month’s Word Carnival explores Jargon in depth across a variety of industries, but one thing’s for certain: there’s no double-speak here, just on-the-money advice for anyone tired of flim-flam.