Using buzzwords

Buzzwords, we all hate them. Even non-wordy, normal folk find them the worst scourge of communication. Yet we all use them. All the time. Even me. Sometimes on purpose.

You see, there are times when buzzwords are appropriate. They serve a purpose in the organisation when they’re used appropriately. Common language is a binding factor for community, from the in-jokes that make your besties laugh to the nonsense words your family grew up using, from the technical words that identify you as an engineer, medic or scientist to the linguistic shortcuts that identify you as a baby boomer, gen x or totes millennial.

When to use buzzwords
Buzzwords are great when used sparingly for internal documents and presentations made to managers and executives. It’s a way of belonging to the flavour of the day. You know they’re sitting there, waiting for you tell them all about the exciting ways that you’re going to #leveragedelivery by #deepdiving and #cocreating for #disruptiveinnovation.

They have a lot on their plate. They often don’t have time to absorb every word of every document, so they start skimming for key words and phrases and concepts that give them the confidence that you understand and you know what has to be done. Without the buzzwords, they may not make the connection between your work and the #bigpictureoutcomes they need to deliver.

When to avoid them
Have you ever used a buzzword when you didn’t know how to make it a reality? You knew what the word meant, of course, but you also knew it was a grand reach.

Buzzwords can take on a life of their own and get repeated ad nauseum across an organisation even when somehow, nobody knows what they mean in practice. They’re like a masque, a costume used to sneak into a party. They’re a way to get things approved.

Getting something approved is not the end-game. You then have to deliver. If you’ve buzzworded your way through the gauntlet and you know that your project isn’t going to create #markettransformation, it will come back to bite you. Don’t accidentally promise things through the razzledazzle of buzzwords. Either use the words that are appropriate to what you’re going to deliver or, if that won’t fly, go away, try again and create a project that will achieve what they’re looking for.

Shared words enable a sense of belonging and shared purpose. They turn into gremlins when they’re used to cover up a lack of knowledge or as a pretense to sound more important.

Buzzwords are like condiments. They’re vinegar. They’re chilli flakes. Used sparingly, they can add flavour to your communication but a meal of them is completely indigestible. A presentation or document full of buzzwords is like sitting down to lick a plate of salt.

Please don’t put your colleagues through that.


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