The Top Ten Reasons to Think Outside the Jargon Box

WE WORK HARD in the communications industry. We work hard to constantly find new ways of communicating with people. To keep them entertained.

I recently watched a short film of an interactive wall in action. Students from Wolverhampton University pressed the images on the wall and graphical elements pinged into life. Cannonballs boomed, piano keys tinkled and a boomerang did its thing, sailing through the air before retracing its steps… And the students’ faces lit up just like the graphical piano keys, delighted with this wall of veritable life.

The wall’s popularity among the students was apparent.

But, clearly, the novelty value of this very same interactive wall will not last forever. So the enterprising company that devised it has to keep evolving newer and better ideas that continue to delight their audiences. Otherwise their audiences will wander off, un-boomerang like, to get their kicks elsewhere.

This is the nature of things for those in the communication industry.

Whether our focus is creating interactive walls or another new feature to attract or maintain attention, we should not forget how we talk about it, how we discuss updates, or how we will spread news of our novel creation.

Unfortunately, many of us do forget these things. When we hear a new buzzword we’re apt to hang on to it. We overuse it in meetings, emails, during pitches and at conferences.

But, before we know it, the buzzword we have been using since we first heard it has become a little tired. A bit trite. Buzzwords lose their appeal. Like interactive walls, they need to be updated, otherwise they become clichés.

So, in a bid to stop us falling into the cliché trap, here is my list of words and phrases that we really need to step away from.

The tedious top ten

Backfill. This slightly uncomfortable-sounding word means no more than its root: ‘fill’. So, if someone leaves their job (possibly because they feel overwhelmed by buzzwords), we just need to fill the vacancy. Actually, the same thing applies to the equally tired backstory. Just lop off the first syllable and you have a word that works very well in explaining your meaning.

Get all your ducks in a row. If you want to say the same thing, using five fewer words, just say ‘get organised’. And leave the ducks in their disorganised bliss.

Moving forward. Unless you happen to have a time machine handy, it’s not actually possible to travel in any other direction. The words ‘in future’ would work just as well. But, be aware that a sentence like, ‘We’ll aim to increase profits’ does not need qualifying, because the meaning is already implied. Those profits can only be increased ‘in future’.

Helicopter view. How many of us have actually been in a chopper? If so, did you quickly feel a little queasy? Funny that. Keep your feet firmly on the ground and use a simple phrase like ‘broad overview’, or even ‘overview’, to prevent your listener from feeling airsick.

Parachute in…’ Nope, this is not a quick way to get back into the office after grabbing a helicopter view. This just means to get someone in quickly. Still, who wants to just employ someone quickly when they can sound like they intend getting James Bond to drop into an international criminal’s lair?

Learnings. Who would have thought that sticking an ‘s’ on the end of a very useable word could make it so irksome? Terms like ‘knowledge’, ‘things learned’, ‘messages’ and ‘lessons’ are great alternatives to this overused dubious plural.

Let’s touch base. Ironically, the very last thing you’ll want to do on hearing this phrase is contact the speaker again. Like EVER!

Rightsizing. Business owners. If you really must let people go to keep your business afloat, have the decency to tell them in a way they understand. Otherwise they will have two reasons to dislike you.

Singing from the same hymn sheet. It’s odd that this phrase has found currency in our secular world. What it usually refers to is having the same goal or the same understanding. Even pesky non-church-goers can understand this.

Thinking outside the box. This phrase actually contradicts itself because, well, you’re not really doing it if you’re saying it. If you see what I mean. If you really want to demonstrate how creative you can be, step way, way outside of said box and dream up a completely different phrase.

This is my tedious top ten. Post a comment with the words or phrases you feel have fallen into cliché-dom. Or, better still, let us know which words you think are cutting edge.

Lucas North 

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