It’s Moderation or Mockery for Buzzwords

posted in: Writing | 1

“Dude, that’s so lame!” We expect to hear this sort of criticism from our teenage children often and loudly, but when we hear it from colleagues it stings more. Not that most people will say it to our faces, of course. Still, at times it’s possible to get a sense that’s what listeners are thinking based on subtle eye-rolls, suspiciously twitchy muscles or, worst of all, hearing what sounds an awful lot like our words being used in a mocking sense.

A recent infographic by GoToMeeting shares 50 words and phrases they can’t stand to hear at work, but often do. The recommendation is to drop these terms immediately and never look back.

The list includes plenty of overused and truly annoying business buzzwords that make my skin crawl. ‘Open kimono’ and ‘low-hanging fruit’ are among the worst offenders in my book. You may be nauseated by others on the infographic that don’t bother me at all. And that’s where this issue begins to break down.

I’m as outspokenly critical as anyone of the trendy catchphrases that assault the professional world in waves. When the term du jour is at its peak, it seems like every conversation includes these offensive words, making my ears cringe and my teeth grind. The bbr marketing team enjoys writing our own “Stop Now!” posts every so often and we don’t hold back.

But the posts we publish decrying the words and phrases we hate most are only our opinion, and often mask conflicting views within our own small office. GoToMeeting’s comprehensive list of 50 of the worst offenders is their opinion. Neither our opinions nor theirs should be mistaken for platonic Truth, immutable and eternal. Every person you interact with will be annoyed by some phrase you use, and you’ll never have a clue how anyone could find it irritating.

Since you can’t avoid what you don’t know will drive a listener up the wall, what should you do? Is silence the only solution? Of course not! The best way to avoid being mocked in secret (or in public) and shunned by all is to pay attention to what’s coming out of your mouth. Most of us are guilty of glomming onto a particular word or phrase for a while, and that’s a dangerous habit.

Be alert to your speech trends and make sure not to gravitate to one term too often. Vary your word choices so that if there is something that grates on the ears of a listener, at least it won’t happen over and over. The last thing you want is to be known as the person who can’t get through a conversation without saying that awful word.

Just use a little self-control in your speaking and writing and you’ll be on safe ground. Trite phrase? Pretentious term? Annoying buzzword? They’ll probably all appear at one time or another, since these criticisms are utterly subjective. That’s a normal cost of communication. No problem! It’s when a specific term becomes ingrained in speech patterns that the issue merits legitimate complaint.

Feel free to use the words on the infographic and any others you like. Meanwhile I’ll bear up, knowing that you shudder when I say whatever it is that you despise. But both of us will do well to remain alert for repetition and over-reliance on any specific word or phrase, because it just might be the one that our nearest and dearest loathe beyond measure.



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Sarah Warlick is responsible for making us and all of our clients sound professional and eloquent as the content director at bbr marketing. In this role, Sarah is in charge of ensuring that all copy is well-written, accurate and free of pesky typos before it heads out the door. Additionally, she is a prolific writer and a frequent contributor to bbr marketing’s blog sites. She spends a good deal of time writing copy for our clients and has a unique way of crawling into our clients’ heads to create ghostwritten copy that sounds as if it came directly from their pen.
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  1. Kathy Brents
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    This made me laugh. “Reach Out” is probably the worst for me. Ugh! And some of the ones I didn’t even realize like “low hanging fruit”. I don’t use that one but I do hear it often. Now I’ll for sure be annoyed by it. “Bandwidth” is another. And “Pipeline” and “Vertical”. Those may or may not be buzzwords but are annoying just the same!

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