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Marketing / Communication skills

Business jargon: Don’t join the blandwagon

One of the joys of writing copy for different industries is that I can spot the clichés from a mile. However, a recent brochure brief won the award for cramming the most meaningless business jargon in one short sentence.

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A lift maintenance company described itself as providing ‘end-to-end vertical transportation device solutions.’

Come again?

I see a lot of ‘driving innovation’. Plenty of ‘shifting paradigms’, ‘best-of-breeds’ and a little too much ‘leveraging people capital’. But this clearly took the cake.

The problem with buzzwords and business jargon is that while industry insiders use them, they really don’t say anything useful or concrete. And, amazingly, that means that everyone in the same industry sounds exactly the same.

All that time and energy writing marketing material, and yet it all comes out terribly boring and bland. And that doesn’t tend to get results.

"The problem with buzzwords and business jargon is that while industry insiders use them, they really don’t say anything useful or concrete."

It’s tempting to fall back on these words. We may want to sound important or show off our industry expertise. It seems to be even more prevalent in service industries, where the things you are selling are often intangible.

But there are two big dangers in using bland clichés and business jargon. Firstly, people may not understand what it is you actually do. Secondly, they will ignore you because these words either prompt them to cynically think ‘yeah, right’, or their eyes have already glazed over as they drift into deep slumber.

Want more articles like this? Check out the  communication skills section.

Here’s some business jargon received recently in an email: “FREE super saver delivery is an example of our obsession with new innovations innovating on behalf of customers.”

Did you pick up that it was innovative? Even if it were, just about everybody wants to use the word innovative, if you use it in your brochure you pretty much prove that you aren’t. There are many other ways of expressing the same idea – try fresh thinking, creative, inventive, imaginative, new ideas, original, ground-breaking.

Another that often crops up is customer focus. You mean you’re interested in your customers and why they might buy things from you? Is there another way to stay in business? How about telling us what you are offering and why it’s so good, rather than going on and on about your focus on customers?

What about integrity? Well, how much would you trust someone who kept telling you they were honest? It’s a great value to have in business, but you need to prove it, not just say it.

The beauty of being smaller is that we soloists can show our personality. So please avoid jumping on the bandwagon.

Here are three tips for starters.

  • Show, don’t tell. How can you prove your point? Perhaps there’s a specific product feature you can explain, or an example of how it’s worked for another customer.
  • Pretend you’re having a face-to-face conversation with your audience.
  • Ask yourself, would your mum understand it? If not, you’ve probably used a buzzword or two.

What do you think? Are there some industry phrases you just can’t avoid? Is there some business jargon out there that really grate on your nerves? Do share!

Sara Howard

is the Principal and senior writer at Writers Australia. She loves nothing more than pulling apart corporate waffle to find the hidden gem of an idea – and then bringing it to life so it resonates with customers, staff, donors or the general public. Connect with Sara on Twitter and LinkedIn

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