Using ‘Buzzwords’ Won’t Make You Sound Like You Know What You’re Talking About

October 10, 2012  |  

Hmm… A writer at USA Today (via the Detroit Free Press) is offering up some very suspect advice.

“Sound Cutting Edge With These Business Buzzwords,” blares the headline. “You’ll have an edge if you can sprinkle in buzzwords liberally that make you sound cutting edge and cool, especially if you’re pitching your company to an investor or talking to your know-it-all brother-in-law,” the article continues. We really hope that sentence is kind of a joke, but we don’t think it is.

On the list of  terms is “crowdfunding,” which has been a focus of our own editorial coverage and the “cloud,” important when you’re talking about digital technologies. But the list also has “social and mobile” and mobile on it, words you should’ve known years ago and are kind of unavoidable at this point. Among the most egregious are “freemium;” and “BYOD, ie bring your own device.” You will sound really stupid using these words in a conversation. Seriously.

More than that, you’ll sound like you’re trying very hard to let the listener know that you’re in the know. Jargon really doesn’t get you very far when you’re meeting someone over cocktails or at a networking event. And at business conventions, a person’s brain is so filled with everything that’s happening around them that you’ll just sound like every other brochure that’s being handed out.

Knowing the latest terms and phrases is definitely a must. But using them sparingly and in the most exquisite context is more important. If your business proposition has to do with collecting or analyzing data, for example, first describe what it is your company does exactly and then, once the conversation has moved along, shorthand your description by calling it “data mining” (one of the other “buzzwords”). In that case, using the catchphrase actually makes your sentences more concise, which is key to a pitch. And, within the previous sentences, you’ve thoroughly explained what you’re talking about, so you don’t risk losing your audience.

Words are for communicating. If you express yourself clearly, you automatically “sound cutting edge and cool.” You don’t have to try so hard.

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