Why Buzzwords Are Bad for BusinessFebruary 19, 2021
The irony of bad buzzwords is that they start out as good things.
They stick because they describe something in a fresh way that resonates. Think “new normal.” A few months back, those two words made a lot of sense. Now, when you hear “new normal,” you probably just think ugh, that is so 2020.
That brings up one troublesome aspect of buzzwords: timing. The fall from trendsetting to trite is quick. In the short window of buzzword viability, it’s best not to be on the wrong side when it closes. Using passé buzzwords can make you appear woefully behind the times.
So hey, with the warning out of the way that some phrases are not our friends, let’s circle back and take a deep dive into this ecosystem of bad buzzwords, while pivoting to take the temperature of the core competencies of this real-time issue, because now more than ever, it’s time we realize that we can no longer put a pin in this issue: No more enervated axioms! It’s a win-win scenario. Hard stop.
See? It’s only February, and already these overused buzzwords and phrases are driving us nuts. But before we get to our collection of bad buzzwords, we first need to address this low-hanging fruit.
It’s time to retire the pandemic lexicon … or at least prevent it from seeping further into business communications
The new normal is no longer new; it’s just normal. Something cannot be unprecedented or uncharted with a twelve-month string of precedents. Is it an abundance of caution to want to flatten the curve of this tiresome trend? Absolutely not. Let’s make the real new normal a world in which we never say “new normal” again.
With that addressed, let’s take a look at other buzzword categories with expired or nearly expired “best by” dates. Like old milk, use them at your own risk!
Getting lost in misdirection
Have you noticed how many buzzwords are directionally based? For instance, circle back, a buzzword newcomer that glowed briefly like a meteor only to abruptly flame out from overuse and make the naughty list. Directional buzzwords are everywhere. We move forward together, move the needle, shoot for the next level, drill-down, corroborate, collaborate or say we want to take the customer on any number of journeys. Words can be used as directional cues to align our sights on a shared vision. This makes sense, but using these imprecise, world-weary references seldom achieves that purpose.
Try to avoid these obscure buzzy destinations. Better yet just plainly tell people what they need to know in the way they can hear it best.
Yes, we live in a rapidly expanding technologically advancing world. Aside from impressive gadgets, the tech world comes up with some really awesome words that eventually make it to Main Street businesses. The problem is the vernacular becomes outdated as quickly as the technological applications that coined them. Telling someone let’s take it offline no longer comes across as cutting edge. The same goes for bandwidth, suggesting optimization of any kind, or referring to every upgrade or minor change as the 2.0 version. Tech-based buzzwords will always be risky because the farther they move from their original meaning, the less descriptive they become. Effective communication is always about the clarity of the message and never the jargon–which generally just blurs the meaning.
Deep dives to nowhere
Some buzzwords—let’s call them “the classics,” have burrowed into the business lingo. How many years have we seen words like paragon, paradigm, rubicon, enterprise, and synergy pop up? After a decade or two, does anyone really know what these words mean? The classics may expose the biggest problem with buzzwords. Using them often has the opposite effect of their intention. Dropping an outdated phrase to appear exceptionally intelligent or hip usually just makes you seem tragically otherwise.
So, at the end of the day, it may be time to think outside the box, step into our wheelhouse, and holistically connect–so we can reach out, touch base and fly our new communication best practices up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes.
Or we could just use our own words to say what we’re thinking and see what happens.
Buzzwords may come and go, but do you know what never goes out of style?
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