Oh, Those Cringe-Worthy Buzzwords
I don’t pretend to be the guardian of all things relating to verbal perfection or written excellence – or to be some sort of Queen’s English evangelist. Honestly, I don’t.
But I do know that there are some really atrocious bastardizations of language being bandied about meeting rooms, boardrooms, water-coolers and "chillax" zones (Chillax! Argh! I wrote one!), and coffee-shops, as the new breed of business people frantically regurgitate the nonsense that so many blogs, mentors and senior management teams are pouring into their unsuspecting ears.
So what I offer here is (tongue in cheek, perhaps, but based on a degree of seriousness that shows only when you see the glint of a zealot in my eyes) a buzzword buster guide to business English.
As a reminder, a buzzword is a word or phrase that is used to impress, or is fashionable. Buzzwords often originate in jargon. Ugh! Jargon. Get OUT!
As Promised, Here’s the List
1. Going forward. This is simply unnecessary nonsense. What’s the alternative, the opposite? Going backwards? "Going backwards, we will…" what? Sack the guy who stole from us? Who the heck says that? Better: From now on.
2. Skillset. There are three too many letters in this word. Try: Skills.
3. Low-hanging fruit. Where do you work? A farm? An orchard? If you can answer in the affirmative, then you can carry on. If not, try: Quick-wins.
4. Talent acquisition. What is this? Er… it’s recruitment, Jim.
5. Reach out. Oh, please! How stranded in a middle of a river are you? Try: Ask someone else.
6. Share with. Telling people things you ought to is part of your job.
7. Piece of work. Three words instead of… project. That’s enough – project.
8. Cascade. Again, this is a word designed to make you feel important. Use "brief" instead, as in "I am going to brief my team…" rather than "I am going to shower them with cascading spittle…" (P.S. You should be doing this anyway.)
9. Deliverables. Are you a courier? No, you’re probably not, are you? So, use: outcomes. Or results. Or "the point of the bloody exercise."
10. Onboarding. Ugh! No such word. It’s recruiting. Or inducting. (And I don’t like "inducting" much either!)
11. Agile. Are you a mountain antelope? A gymnast? No, didn’t think so. Just use "responsive."
12. Best of Breed. OK, only if in a dog show.
13. Client-centric. No sh*t, Sherlock! Who needs to be told that they ought to be "conscious of customer needs"?
14. Core competency. C’mon! Main skill.
15. Deep dive. Are you going for oysters? No, I thought not. Try: Research, examine in-depth.
16. Granular. Granular? I know what’s granular: sugar. Sugar is granular. Your fancy discussion is: Detailed.
17. Herding cats. Pet show time again.
18. Knowledge Process Outsourcing. My head hurts. Sub-contract.
19. Leverage. Opening something? Starring in The Sopranos? Selling encyclopedias door-to-door? Leverage is a bit aggressive. Why not simply use something to catalyze or facilitate an event?
20. Mission Critical. NASA can use this, but not you. Use: Important. Really, really important.
21. Part of our DNA. Everyone’s DNA is unique. What your business has is a "core value."
22. Peel back the onion. Just don’t.
23. Seamless (integration). "Wallpapering in business" – a primer. Smooth.
24. Touchpoint. Ooh, naughty!
25. At the end of the day. Footballers' stock phrase. A shorter option (and possibly a more manageable chunk for the intellectually challenged footballer, of which in the UK we have a clutch) would be: "In summary…"
26. Face time. The thing you get in front of the bathroom mirror. Meet. Just meet, face to bloody face.
27. Push the envelope. Use this and you belong in the mail room. Just don’t!
28. Robust. Thick-ankled, stout, sturdy – but not here, thank you. Say: Passionate. As in "I made a passionate defense of the right of mayors to misbehave. Repeatedly." Not.
29. Wellness. NOT a word! Health. Now that is a word.
30. Win-win. When one hears these words, one know that someone, somewhere will lose-lose.
Be the Master of Your Message
So, there you have it… 30 oh-so commonly used and misused words or phrases that have insinuated themselves into the very heart of our vocabulary. Our words can, when wielded with craft and finesse, transport the reader into a different world – or convey a point with the skill and accuracy of a laser-guided missile.
Our lexicon has been corrupted, tainted by these modern day, clever clogs NLP-friendly and management consultancy sired bastardizations.
But where do you go from here? What is the real point behind my putting this list in front of you?
It is to say this: On the whole, the audience you are trying to communicate to – yes, your audience, and the one with whom you hope to create a meaningful and hopefully long-lasting business relationship (i.e., they might purchase from you, then purchase again) – if eavesdropped upon would more than likely never use such nonsense and clichéd phrases.
To make your messaging and communications, your sales “collateral” (that should be #31) truly engaging and memorable, use the right tone of voice and speak to them as they would speak to you.
It’s not big or clever to use these phrases, just a bit boring and more than a bit lazy. But most of all, it proves that you are not the master of your own words, nor are you likely to get close to the way your audiences wish to be spoken to.
Please share and comment, and add to the list those terms or phrases that merit inclusion. Go on – you know you want to.
About the Author: Jonathan Henley is an experienced, creative, committed and inspirational B2B marketing and communications professional who is always interested in new and challenging opportunities. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Google Plus.