I have recently been working on a style guide for Econsultancy, to help internal and external writers achieve a measure of consistency.
As part of the style guide I’ve compiled a ‘Common Words’ section (because ’email’ has no hyphen, but ‘e-commerce’ does), and an ‘Acronyms’ section (because if you don’t know your SEO from your WTF then people tend to LOL).
I am also assembling a ‘Banned Words and Phrases’ section, to try to rid our pages of the meaningless guff typically found in press releases and Powerpoint slideshows. There is no room for ‘bleeding-edge solutions’ at this inn.
When writing about marketing and technology it is normally possible to resort to plain English, rather than jargon and rage-inducing PRspeak, though from time to time I guess we’re all guilty of slipping up. It comes with the territory, to some degree.
Nevertheless, smiting words like ‘leverage’ and ‘synergies’ is a noble pursuit and one that we should all take on. I hope we can all banish these swinish words and phrases for good. PR people take note!
So here are some of the words and phrases I have included on my personal banned list. I can barely bring myself to write some of these down, and I apologise in advance if you regurgitate your breakfast in the next 30 seconds:
- Leverage / Leveraging (I know, it’s disgusting isn’t it? Used commonly by experts like Susan Harrow, author of ‘Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul’. In a headline too. Oh the irony.)
- Synergy / Synergies (in press releases this normally means redundancies; amazingly some people can say this twice in the same sentence)
- Paradigm shift (only parents that name their children Ralph pronounced ‘Raif’ are more pretentious)
- Leading (as in ‘a leading global supplier of xyz’ / ‘leading edge’)
- Solutions (often unavoidable in certain contexts, but still abhorrent)
- Touch base
- Incentivise (is this really a valid word?)
- Come to the party (and barf on my guests)
- Over-arching (note: strategies are NOT eyebrows)
- Mission critical (do you work at NASA? Here’s an example in a press release of how this phrase can hurt your head: “Itanium-based systems saw increased migration from legacy mainframes and earned continued success in the mission-critical and computationally intensive arenas.”)
- Best in class / breed (/show?)
- Blue sky thinking
- Robust (normally means cumbersome and expensive)
- Going forward
Somebody pass me a bucket…
What did I miss? Please add your own suggestions underneath…