I just finished reading several articles in which the authors make the case to banish buzzwords and jargon from our vocabulary in favor of speaking more plainly. My guess is that many people agree with this suggestion. In fact, I’m guilty of using my fair share of buzzwords and even I agreed with these authors- at first. My question is, if so many people think buzzwords are evil, why do so many of us use them on a regular basis? I’ve come up with a few theories:
- Habit: Just as certain substances can be addictive, I think we become addicted to words like “maximize” and “proactive,” and jargon such as “user experience” because this language constantly bombards us in our companies. It’s simply easier to go with the flow.
- Us vs. Them: Buzzwords and jargon are equivalent to the secret codes of special societies, which is why they alienate people who don’t understand them. For example, try being part of the inner circle of savvy marketers without referring to made up words like “blog” or “B2C” (which showed up on one of my Buzzword Bingo cards). It can’t be done.
- Conserving air: When used as buzzwords, the terms “sexy,” “enterprise,” and “reinvent” represent longer ideas. For instance, if we had to speak plainly about “rightsizing,” it would take fifteen words using the BNET dictionary definition: “Corporate restructuring, or rationalization, with the goal of reducing costs and improving efficiency and effectiveness.” Can you imagine how much longer it would take to get through meetings without these words?
Let’s face facts: no matter how much we all agree that we should speak plainly, buzzwords and jargon aren’t going to go away. So my recommendation is to use these words wisely:
- Limit their use.
- Make sure everyone who needs to understand what the words mean has the correct definition
- Use them in context to make a point the way no other words can do.
Finally, be on the lookout for new buzzwords, because they change constantly. I invite you to share your favorite discoveries along with definitions. Maybe we can start a new Buzzword Bingo card!