2014 Resolution: Lose ten pounds… of unwanted words

Lose ten pounds… of unwanted words

Each new year brings resolutions. But instead of the familiar ones (you know, more exercise, better eating), how about a commitment to lose clichés and unnecessary words, so your writing and speaking are as smooth and clear as a mountain stream?

In nearly all cases, we make a first impression with words, whether you’re on a first date or meeting potential customers or business partners.   Here’s an example: How many people in the business world have read or heard a business describe itself like this?

As a full-service solutions provider with world-class brands, we use mission-critical best practices to attain best-in-class products and cost-effective results, and so, at the end of the day, we are able to deliver exceptional value.

Full-service solutions provider: Almost every company can make this claim because it has no context, therefore it has no meaning. In fact, a quick search on Google finds at least 47,000 companies using the term. Would any company admit that they’re not a full-service provider?

World class:  Almost every company can make this claim because it has no context, therefore it has no meaning.  Who is the judge who deems a company or brand “world class”?

Mission critical:  Come on. What is your company, a squadron of Top Gun fighter pilots?  Overused and over the top.

Best practices:  Almost every company can make this claim because it has no context, therefore it has no meaning.  Whose best practices are we talking about or comparing ourselves to?

Cost effective: Almost every company can make this claim because it has no context, therefore it has no meaning.  Cost effective, compared to what?

Deliver exceptional value: Almost every company… well, you know what goes here. Value compared to what? Provider of “value-added services” nets more than 600,000 matches in Google. Exactly which services are not adding value?

End of the day:  What day are we talking about?  Can’t we be specific?  By the end of the year?  By the close of business on Tuesday?   In a couple of months?

What does it say about you and your organization when tens of thousands of companies are saying exactly the same things about themselves? It says your company or products are like everyone else’s.

“Years of language dilution by lawyers, marketers, executives, and HR departments have turned the powerful, descriptive sentence into an empty vessel of buzzwords, jargon, and vapid expressions,” says Jason Fried, a cofounder of 37signals.  Words are treated as filler.

Fried says it best when he asks, “Would you go to a dinner party and just repeat what the person to the right of you is saying all night long? Would that be interesting to anybody? So why are so many businesses saying the same things at the biggest party on the planet — the marketplace?”

We’re all guilty of using common descriptions because it’s easy. The use of jargon and clichés reinforce one of the old adages of good writing, “Show don’t tell.”  Tell me HOW you achieved “value” and avoid clichés by telling YOUR story!  It’ll have a much better chance of being remembered.

And when you’re being descriptive, be bold. Dig a little and describe to your target audience what’s interesting or truly special about your organization or its people.  It’s there. Otherwise the company wouldn’t have achieved success.  You just have to find it.

One comment on “2014 Resolution: Lose ten pounds… of unwanted words

  1. I see the problem as the tightening of the market (we don’t make anything any more, our economy is based on “services”) and a customer base that expects everything for free or little money.
    As a result everyone has rushed to inflate their skill set and use tired, worn expressions such as these. The sad fact is that half the “professionals” who coach people on resume writing or building up their LinkedIn account encourage their pupils to use these words.

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