Beware the Buzzword

buzzwordsWe’re all guilty of throwing a buzzword in here and there. And with their prevalence in everyday language nowadays, it’s hard not to use them.

So what are they? Buzzwords are industry terms that sound important or technical, and are used to impress a usually uninformed audience. Words like synergy, bandwidth and value-add are popular buzzwords. Now, as impressive as these may sound, it’s hard to decipher what they really mean. That doesn’t sound very user-friendly, does it?

The truth is, if you try to avoid these overly used words, you actually sound more like you know what you’re talking about. And your audience, in turn, understands what you’re trying to say.

When you overstuff your content with too many buzzwords, it ends up sounding something like this: “We use best-in-class social currency to publish viral content and increase mobility.” Huh? This kind of terminology initiates more eye-rolls and head-scratches than clicks. And no one wants that. To communicate the same idea, you could say, “Our strong presence on social networks helps get our message across to masses of people.” Oh, that’s what they meant!

Here are some examples of our favourite buzzwords:

Bespoke

This word refers to something being made-to-order, tailor or custom-made, and is used primarily in the context of suit tailors (which makes sense). However, it’s being thrown around in business and marketing land: We offer bespoke business solutions. Most people won’t know what that means. If you tell them you provide custom solutions, they’ll get the message and won’t need a dictionary on stand-by.

______-centric

Customer-centric, client-centric, member-centric, idea-centric — the list can go on forever. Nothing says buzz like adding this suffix to a word that is your main focus to make it an adjective. It’s not wrong to do this, of course. But it takes life away from your verbiage. You be the judge. Would you rather hear someone say they use an idea-centric approach, or that ideas come first?

Thought-leader

This term actually means that the institution in question has authoritative presence in their field. But when you think about what it means literally, it’s as if the institution in question was the first to ever have this specific thought. That’s quite the claim to make, don’t you think? In calling yourself a thought-leader, you’re essentially saying that you were the first to ever coin an idea. And that’s unlikely. The same sentiment can be achieved with a number of other words, so avoid this one.

The moral of the story? Stay away from buzzwords. Especially if you aren’t 100% sure of what they mean. You want to write to your audience in an engaging and human way that doesn’t make them feel uninformed or force them to look up half the words you use. Few would have the patience or desire to do that anyway. Remember the K.I.S.S. rule: keep it simple, stupid.