Are you addicted to buzzwords?

This topic of this article, 10+ Buzzwords to Banish From Your Content Marketing Vocabulary, intrigues me because I’ve made a conscious effort to reduce or even eliminate the use of buzzwords in my writing and my business discussions. The reason is straightforward but I’ll let you take a guess first…

  1. I prefer bland word choices
  2. Many of my international clients communicate in English as a second language and may not have a clear understanding of buzzwords or idiomatic expressions
  3. I simply have no sense of fun
  4. English buzzwords are often culturally-specific and don’t fluently cross borders
  5. From the article: “They are overused, misused, poorly used, and just generally irritating.”
  6. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein

  7. You thought of an even better reason…please share it.

I was born in the United States and started my career in Silicon Valley, which I think easily qualifies as an epicenter of buzzwords. As a journalist (later turned copywriter), I attended meetings, product announcements, interviews…where buzzwords filled the air. To Steve Jobs’ credit, the developer conferences and press briefings that I attended at Apple were, for the most part, blissfully free of buzzwords. Anyone could quickly and easily understand what the product was, what it did, and how it made his or her life easier. I was impressed with this approach to communicate and connect with people. I think those experiences early on in my career certainly influenced how I write and speak today.

I’ve lived outside the U.S. for the past 20 years and work with companies in Western Europe (France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands…), the UAE and KSA, and onward to Turkey and Asia. English is the language of choice for their international sales, marketing and social media communication. My strategy has been to fine-tune a writing and editing style that I call “smart but simple English”. It’s virtually buzzword-free, unless certain terminology is necessary and specific to a product or sector. Limited use of buzzwords also keeps content timely and fresh – buzzwords quickly go out of popular use.

Buzzwords are addictive plug & plop words that eliminate your need to work a little bit harder and create a concise and intelligent explanation to share with your audience. In a meeting setting, if everyone decides to use every buzzword in their repertoire, the discussion can turn into a linguistic tennis match. I feel that buzzwords can be over-used to the point of fostering confusion rather than communication.

Some additional thoughts from Sherry Turkle: “We’re too busy communicating to think, too busy communicating to connect, and sometimes we’re too busy communicating to create. This is true for individuals and also true for organizations.”

Your thoughts?