The 10 most overused business words
December 9, 2013
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Best practice, synergies, dovetail – does anyone really know what these words mean?
Jack Ellis doesn’t believe in weasel words.
Weasel words, spin words or buzz words. Whatever you call them, they irritate the hell out of us.
Like any other industry, business has its own jargon. Words like “synergistic” and phrases such as “touching base” are now common corporate speak.
The exact meaning of these buzzwords is often unknown – even to those who use them – but they are so prolific they tend to sneak into our everyday vernacular.
People love to hate buzzwords: Charles Firth
Writer Jack Ellis says he often receives media releases spruiking small businesses, but if they are peppered with marketing drivel he immediately trashes them.
“I dismiss them, especially when they use words like ‘trust’ and ‘reliable’ because I feel like I’m being tricked when I see those words,” he says.
“The thing is, a lot of businesses themselves aren’t comfortable with using this kind of language, but they’ve been sold a pup and told they have to use these words.
“Putting your message into a glossy package only takes it straight to the recycling bin.”
Charles Firth, a member of The Chaser and curator of The Sydney Museum of Words, says people love to hate buzzwords.
“They don’t hate the word itself, they’re just sets of letters, it’s what they symbolise and how meaningless they become,” he says.
“A lot of these words are so impersonal, so hollow, you just have to laugh at them.”
They are so overused, convoluted and irrelevant, spin words are sometimes downright hilarious. Website learnings.org (“where corporate speak goes to die”) has flipped frustration to fun with its corporate buzzword bingo. Players take bingo sheets labelled with spin words into their meetings, conferences or proposal deliveries and tick off each ridiculous word.
Here are 10 top annoying words to put on your own bingo card:
1. Learnings. “It’s not a word in the dictionary but you hear it in business all the time. There is a perfectly good real world word, i.e. lessons, to use instead, but that’s apparently not buzzy enough,” says copywriter Wai Chim.
2. Solution.“I work in marketing and it’s the most overused word,” says Kimberly Palmer, marketing consultant, Brazen Productions. “It has become absolutely meaningless. Yet you still see it everywhere, particularly in relation to anything digital or IT.”
3. Resources. “It dehumanises a business – why not just refer to people by their names and make them feel part of a broader team? It’s not conducive to building relationships,” says Sharon Latour, Marketing Bee.
4. Dovetail. “I used to work in a PR agency, where the boss wanted everything to dovetail. It’s an old-fashioned word, mainly used in the 1950s, so I was never 100 per cent sure what she meant,” says Leah Greengarten from branding, graphic and web design company The Elk Group. “Eventually, I figured it out and have never used it since.”
5. Mumpreneur. “I think that we all do an amazing job in business and being a mum or not does not add any credibility or make a diffidence to what we do. I think being a small business owner in any form is a great achievement and we don’t need any more labels than that,” says Linda Reed-Enever, Media Connections.
6. Networking. “Anyone can network, this isn’t a skill. Attending an event and swapping cards is not relationship building. Connecting with someone on the other hand requires a strategy and effort!” says Amanda Rose, strategic connector.
7. Best practice. “Referring to a technique that is far superior to any other and guaranteeing to deliver results far above any other method – this is possibly the most irritating and unnecessary drivel ever concocted by the consulting industry!” says Jessica Byrnes, founder of Escape Lounge.
8. Synergies. “Translation: ‘Nobody knows so let’s use this word anyway,’” says Melissa Donnelly, Affinity Communications.
9. Engage. “This is business lingo at its worst and people need to remember that they are talking to people. Communication should be clear and to the point, and have no room for ambiguity in what you mean. Why not simply say ‘talk to us’ or ‘say hi,’” says Amanda Martin, director, digital marketing agency The Hunter Box.
10. Transparency. “Transparency’s great when it’s for real but when it’s a catchphrase or a term that the CEO just likes to use, it becomes a farce,” says Ron Lee, Corporate Ninja.