Read any good buzzwords lately?
Thought leaders that read many press releases –especially those of their competitors – might notice that in time, they all start to sound the same. That’s because they use a lot of the same words 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, 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 on company websites. These words eventually lose their meaning – if they have not already – and when this happens, readers just gloss over them.
And one more thing about buzzwords: the list keeps growing. For instance, in the past few years, the following terms have evolved into buzzwords:
- In the cloud
- Over leverage
- Game changer
Here’s another problem with buzz words thought leaders should be aware of.
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 worse than being stuck on autopilot. These words can cause potential customers to move on and check out what your competitors are offering. Thats because 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. People start wiggling around in their seats. They hope their cellphone will buzz them so they can get up and leave. But to no avail. Iin 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.
How Thought Leaders Can Get 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 using them. Many people don’t notice how many clichés they use. Especially, if you are writing a news story, which is typically under four hundred words, question each phrase to make sure it is free of buzzwords.
Next, think of alternative words. Remember, buzzwords are often used automatically because they are a habit. We must 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 can improve our writing and make it much more interesting. Consider the following statements and their revisions:
Buzzy: XYZ Corporation is a world class 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 using buzzwords is to say aloud 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. We are more personable. Listen to what you say and then type that into your document.
Sidebar: Just as new buzzwords are being developed, some old ones are disappearing. For instance, the following are buzzwords of another era:
- Joined-up thinking
- Pulse check
- Dot the I’s and Cross the T’s
- Square the circle.