On jargon and buzzwords and really tired phrases

January 13, 2009 at 5:32 pm 1 comment

Sally Saville Hodge

It’s needless to say that a lot of words and phrases are over-leveraged in today’s written and spoken dialog.

You see? I just did it with barely a thought.

I will be the first to admit that I occasionally – okay, often – fall into this “let’s show people how smart I am by the number of buzzwords I can weave into my writing” trap. I do try to stay away from really stupid phrases, but sometimes, well… okay. I just got through writing a proposal and used the word “leverage” four times. It would have been more, but I cut a few out. It’s not that I think the use of such verbiage makes me look smarter (really!) but it does show I can use the language that my audience of businessfolk uses – I can relate.

Language and its use and misuse is a favorite topic of those of us who love it – done right. One of my favorite bloggers is Dan Santow of Edelman PR, whose Word Wise blog is the ultimate in grammar and style and all things related. I also recently happened upon Lake Superior State University, which since 1975 has issued a “banished word” list – some evergreen, some having taken on new disfavor with political and cultural shifts.

    Among my favorites from that particular list:

    • Maverick. I can’t even think the word without a correlating vision of Sarah Palin as its chief utterer.
    • Staycation. A made-up word that everyone glommed onto – the non- or anti-vacation.
    • Not so much. The ultimate in overused snarkiness.

    Among the evergreens:

    • Paradigm shift. What a grandiose term for the simple matter of change.
    • “I, personally.” Would it ever be impersonally?
    • 24/7. This phrase must have caught on for its appeal to everyman’s inner geek.
    • Fairly, almost, one of the most (etc.) unique. Either it is or it is not one of a kind.
    • “At the end of the day.” Versus at its start. A single word will often do in place of pseudo descriptive phrases. Try “ultimately.”
    • Make it sticky. This has been around for awhile and I still puzzle over what, exactly, it’s supposed to mean.
    • Outside the box. We can also all try to be just plain old creative or innovative and leave the box out of it.

    There are so many ways to make your writing sing without having to resort to tired and hackneyed language. Here’s to working on better melodies in 2009.

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    Entry filed under: Branding, Definitions, Public Relations, Sally Hodge, Trends.

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    1 Comment Add your own

    • 1. Harry Steindler  |  August 4, 2009 at 8:50 pm

      One of my favorites has always been, “to make a long story short” which of course no one ever does – and than to make that long phrase shorter and more mystifying “long story short”. Relax, take your time – tell the whole story!

      Reply

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