Writing business copy can be a challenge. You need to be compelling, your content needs to be rich and interesting, and you need to be succinct, whether you’re writing for a press release or your website copy. So I can understand the temptation of using the crutch of business jargon. Terms that sound impressive and might actually be impressive, but are a subpar substitute for intriguing content. I’ve compiled a list of some of the worst and most obnoxious offenders in the hope that we can finally put some of these irritants to rest.
Results-oriented: I see this one a lot and it implies – bizarrely – that there’s some sort of format for a business other than results-oriented. As opposed to what, oriented towards not getting results?
Open the Kimono: This one gets made fun of all the time but apparently there are people who still use it with a straight face. It’s creepy, awkward, and has no real purpose even as a piece of jargon.
Solution: When copy describes a “solution” it can mean anything from a series of services to a completely random product. You’re cheapening the word by making it a placeholder for what your product actually does. Yes, of course your product provides a solution. Water provides hydration, but you don’t see Poland Spring advertising that.
Done for You: This isn’t a selling point or anything unique to your business. You’re announcing that your services are, in fact, done for customers. Golfclap?
Strategic Thinker: Saying your company is filled with strategic thinkers is like saying your secretary can answer the phone. You can safely assume your clients are looking for people who can think.
Guaranteed Results: You’re guaranteeing something that your business or organization should provide by default. This is redundancy at its worst.
Full-Service: Full-service is another one of those buzzwords people use solely because it sounds professional and without any sense of context. Full-service meaning what? As in, you provide all the services in the world? All the services for your industry? Do you provide dry cleaning at your accounting office? Or you could just list your services and not leave people guessing.
Our Online Store Is Open 24/7: It was witty to say this back in 1999 when online stores were in their infancy and the barriers to creating one were more substantial. It’s now almost 2014 and you can create a rudimentary online store in about five minutes. Let it go.
Anything Ending With “Team”: I’ve heard SWAT team, A-Team, and power team used by people who aren’t breaking into buildings to rescue hostages or having mid-air gunfights alongside Mr. T. You have a team of people. Call it that and stop dressing it up.
Core Competency: This is usually used to describe a particular specialization or focus, but that just described the problem with this one. If you’re particularly well versed in something, why are you calling it a competence?
Web 2.0: This is one that people just use interchangeably with anything they associate as part of some nebulous concept of an upgraded Internet, usually social media or RSS syndication. Beyond that, it’s a misnomer because there wasn’t some colossal update to the Internet overnight. Technology evolved over time and the basic concepts of so-called Web 2.0 have been in place for decades.
Swim Lane: A friend who works at a consulting firm told me that “Swim Lane” generally refers to an area of expertise. Then I waited for the punchline but apparently he was serious. If it’s your area of expertise, great. Call it your area of expertise.
Outside the Box Thinking: It was cool to say this in the early 2000s. Now I don’t even know what ‘the box’ is anymore.
E-mail blast: This one at least makes sense, but it just sounds like you’re indiscriminately firing E-mails at people rather than carefully sending targeted ones to the right people. Even then, you’re just doing that: Sending E-mails, not blasting them. You’re not Captain Hook and you’re not firing a volley off
Anything Ending With “Edge”: Cutting edge, razor edge, bleeding edge, we get it, you’re tech-savvy. Unless you work in a sword factory this is overdone.
Paradigm-Shift: Beyond its scientific usage, I still have no idea what people mean when they use this in a business context. Neither will your customers, even if they think it sounds sexy at first.
What do you think, have you been guilty of using any of these? I admit to instinctively using E-blast solely because it sounds aggressive and ambitious, and saying strategic thinker sounds more reassuring to you than the person you’re trying to impress. If I forgot any, vent about your most hated business jargon below!