Say what you mean. Stop using jargon and clichés.

August 15, 2007

I enjoyed this post from Seth Godin today on overly used business clichés.

I have to admit, I do enjoy crafting a long, meaningful sentence on the synergistic implications of maximizing profitability through implementing measurable objectives that positively impact the bottom line through boosting gross margin dollars by employing best practices to ensure top-notch customer service-oriented deliverables. Who doesn’t? Just for kicks.

But I got to looking at his list, and I have to say, in a lot of my business writing, I see these phrases creep in a lot. Here are some of my all-time faves that I must admit to employing regularly, mostly at work, but sometimes on this blog:

  1. Improving ROI
  2. Increasing the bottom line
  3. Impacting (anything)
  4. Enhancing productivity
  5. Fostering retention

Ick. Just reading that list makes me want to avert my eyes from the screen. What do these even mean, anyway? Let’s see if I can interpret myself and offer a clear, direct phrasing of these ideas. Here goes:

  1. Making something worth the money you spend.
  2. Essentially the same as above. Or, making sure more money stays in your pocket and isn’t spent where it’s not needed. However, this phrase, in isolation, has the added benefit of sounding like getting a bigger derriere.
  3. Typically: benefiting, improving, growing.
  4. Helping people do more valuable work with the time they have.
  5. Doing things to make sure your workers stay working at your company.

Whew. That was less painful than I thought. I feel clearer already.

So, if you’re up for it, here’s a little writer/blogger challenge for you. Select your most-commonly used jargon or clichés, interpret them to yourself or your readers, and then stop using them! Then, leave me a comment or link to this post so I can find your jargon and read your interpretations for myself.

Let’s make the world an easier place to understand, a little bit at a time.



7 Responses to “Say what you mean. Stop using jargon and clichés.”

  1. A few years ago, everyone was “cutting edge” and to this day I have no idea of what that is supposed to mean. I like your translations.

    If we took the time to think through what we actually want to communicate instead of copying the jargon, we might have brochures and marketing materials with personality. That in turn would build more equity in our brands.

  2. Sean Simpson Says:

    Your proactive, visionary, outside-the-box thoughts suggest a seamless paradigm shift that provides me with integrated resources that fills me with empowerment while at the same time incentivizing me with low-risk high-reward total-quality benchmarks. But then again I could just be out-of-the-loop on leadership-inspired, ROI benchmarks in our talent-rich, customer-focused, enterprise-wide, value-added, initiative-oriented work environment.

  3. Tiffany Says:

    I agree. We sort of assume everyone has a common understanding of cliches – even business-speak – but instead of imparting more meaning when we use them, we tend to cloud meaning and hide behind the assumption that we sound important or knowledgeable.

    I love your point about personality. It’s amazing that just writing like a normal person speaks can make us seem more. . . real!

    Honestly, this is a hard topic for me, because I am a vocab maven, and I love big words, so it’s a great challenge just to speak and write with the reader in mind.

  4. Tiffany Says:

    Whew. And let me also say that it was almost impossible to write my latest post without that word “impact”! I had no idea how attached I am to that word. . .

  5. Jamarion Says:

    hi nice post, i enjoyed it

  6. Charlie Says:

    hi nice post, i enjoyed it

  7. Raegan Says:

    hi i enjoyed the read

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