If you read many press releases, you might notice that they seem to use a lot of the same words and terms over and over again. These are called buzz words, and often press release writers use them purely out of habit. Some that drive me and many readers are crazy include the following:
- Thrilled to announce
- Rubber meets the road
- State of the art
We see these not only in business news stories but in all types of content, published in print, posted online, and very often in company blogs, where they should never be used because they tend to be too promotional. Plus, these words eventually lose their meaning and when this happens, readers just gloss over them.
Here’s another problem with buzz words, according to Bryan A. Garner, author of Harvard Business Review Guide to Better Business Writing:
Bizspeak [buzz words] seem like a convenient shorthand, but it suggests to readers that you’re on autopilot, thoughtlessly using boilerplate phrases that they’ve heard over and over. Brief, readable documents, by contrast, show care and thought—and earn people’s attention.
Garner is right; however, it is actually worse than being stuck on autopilot. These words can cause potential customers to move on. There is nothing personal or engaging about them. Many buzzwords sound and read like you are speaking over someone, not to someone.
When used in a presentation, they often cause people’s eyes to glaze over. However, in a presentation, people typically must stay put until the presentation is over. But, when reading online or in print, they have the power to turn the page or click once and move on.
Getting Rid of Buzz Words
There are a couple of ways to stop using these words and the first one is to simply become aware that you are doing them. Many people don’t notice how many clichés they use. Especially, if you are writing a news story, which is typically under 400 words, question each phrase to make sure it is free of buzzwords.
Next, think of alternatives. Remember, buzzwords are often used automatically because they are a habit. We have to break that habit now.
To do this, use a thesaurus or the thesaurus library provided in the latest versions of your word-processing program (e.g., Microsoft Word). Using these tools, we are able to improve our writing. Consider the following statements and their revisions:
Buzzy: XYZ Corporation is a leading manufacturer of …
Engaging: XYZ Corporation is a principal manufacturer of …
Buzzy: XYZ Corporation makes state-of-the-art …
Engaging: XYZ Corporation makes advanced …
Another way to avoid buzzwords is to say out loud what you want to say in the news story as if you are speaking to someone in your office.
Typically, in everyday communication, we do not use buzzwords. We speak more sincerely. Listen to what you say and then type it into your document.
More on writing effective content here.