Guide to Buzzwords: Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em, Here’s How Best to Use Them

Estimated reading time: 14 minute(s)

Revolutionary. Service-oriented. Disruptive. Top-rated. Transformational. 

Seen these words before? Try…every five minutes? Let’s call them buzzwords, as a result of their utter ubiquity in ads, pitches, website copy, and other marketing copy and content. And they grind our gears…most of the time. Here’s why. 

What’s in a buzzword? 

First things first: what makes a buzzword? In our opinion, these overused words and phrases are simply trending in the cultural purview. From business language (“platform,” “thought leader,” “reach out to”) to human behavior (“woke,” “adulting,” “basic”), these expressions are often an attempt to capture the zeitgeist in some new way. If you’re not sure about a certain word, here are a few hints to help you identify a buzzy term.

If….

  • …You hear a word all the time…
  • …The meaning isn’t quite clear…
  • …It’s thrown around as business jargon…
  • …It’s surged in popularity over a given time… 
  • …You just can’t stand hearing it anymore…

….you likely have yourself a buzzword. (A synonym? Jargon.) 

What’s wrong with “buzzword salad”?   

Using one of these phrases in your marketing copy seems perfectly innocuous. Used sparingly, it can help to build affinity with readers—and accelerate simple momentum for the reading process. (You see it, you nod and move on.)

But when your copy is rife with them, they are counterproductive—weighing your message down.

First, in the attempt to achieve universality, the most often-used words and phrases are often the most abstract. (Think about a cliche: any cliche!!) Because of this, it’s difficult for your audience to gain clear meaning. At best, you’ll fail to seize on a hallmark of great copywriting: the ability to make something feel tangible, alive, and real. At worst, you’ll alienate readers you desperately want to captivate.

When you string together a lot of jargon, marketing copy no longer sounds like a genuine attempt to connect. Instead, it sounds robotic, like mock art: a miniature plaster Statue of Liberty replica in an American restaurant in Moscow.

Yes, it lacks originality. But worse: it loses vitality, sincerity, and groundedness. It’s devoid of what lands with other humans—and that is more than a shame. It’s a squandered opportunity.  

Think of a game of telephone: you start with an interesting term that feels new and unique. Maybe it jazzes up a sentence here and there. It catches steam and suddenly, it’s everywhere. As more people use the phrase, its meaning loses precision. Eventually, you’re left with opaque language that stands for, well…nothing.

Buzzy jargon can cloak what you’re really trying to say. It can skirt outside the lines without ever articulating your message. It’s the easy way out and worse—it doesn’t work.

To use or not to use: is jargon ever okay?

We’re not saying not to use jargon, ever. For example, maybe an omni-channel experience is the only way to describe what you’re doing. If that’s the case, go for it.  

Another way to go? Consider how you can add meaning and uncover the deeper, more subtle, layered message. It might take more words. It’ll almost certainly take more thoughtfulness.

It might involve describing a process, laying out the challenges associated with an achievement—adding gravitas in some way. That’s a step in the right direction. 

We suggest adding the following steps to your thought process. 

  • Create a “jargon lexicon.” If you notice your marketing copy skewing fluffy vs. concrete, take note. File away words that you notice yourself frequently overusing. Acknowledging your stumbling blocks will help you become more aware of where and when they crop up. 
    • Identify what your copy should say. Regardless of your individual writing process, this should be at the top of the list for writing great copy. But drilling into the concise takeaway is especially helpful in making your writing more direct. With one key message in mind, you’ll have a road map guiding your thought process. 
  • Unwrap the meaning of your words. Is the thing you’re writing about truly revolutionary? How outside-the-box is it, really? As you write, be diligent about writing with precision. As a writer, you have all of the tools at your fingertips to make smarter swaps and choose thoughtful words that will make your copy sing. 
    • Simplify your copy and content. Often, copy isn’t appealing to rocket scientists. Simple, straightforward, and human are elements that make for compelling copy. Whether your topic is approachable or complex, eliminating unnecessary jargon can make the meaning easier to understand. 
  • Use examples where possible. Painting a picture in the audience’s mind is great. But rather than using nebulous ideas, share concrete examples that give readers a vivid image to latch onto. 

Maintaining a connection with the audience

At the end of the day, great copy builds trust and communicates with your reader. Shedding the extra layer of jargon keeps your copy from feeling stale and exclusive. With a voice that’s thoughtfully individual, your brand will jump off of the page. 

Looking for an approach you can trust? Contact us today!

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Kirby Kelly

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