Monday, February 24, 2014

Your vocabulary may be killing you

Don't do this.
As a listener, you've experienced the following annoyances. Your head explodes, right? So why would you expect others to think kindly of you when you commit them? Friends don't let friends' heads explode.

Geoffrey James catalogs the explosives:

Jargon consists of hijacking normal words and using them in odd ways to make them sound "businessy." Example: "We're reaching out to our customer advocates to leverage a dialogue on...." While others who speak fluent biz-blab might not take notice or care, everyone else cringes and rolls their eyes.

Fix: Use words as they're defined in the dictionary. Example: "We're contacting our customers to discuss...." That way, you'll sound more like a professional and less like a cartoon businessperson.
These are those metaphors that have been used so frequently that all the juice has been leeched from them. Examples: "out-of-the-box thinking" or "hitting one out of the ballpark." Clichés aren't just unoriginal but also reveal a lack of respect for the listener. If you really cared, you wouldn't trot out these creaky phrases.

Fix: Avoid metaphors completely or use original ones. If that's too hard, tweak the wording of clichés to make them less cliché-ish. Example: my use of "leeched" rather than "squeezed" in the paragraph above. Worst case, adding "proverbial" can refresh a cliché with a pinch of irony. Example: "out of the proverbial ballpark."
Using big, impressive sounding words rather than smaller, common ones can leave listeners with the impression that you're pompous and pretentious. Examples: "assess strategic options and tactical approaches" (i.e. "plan") or "implement communications infrastructure" (i.e. "add wireless"). Fancy-schmancy wording adds bulk and extracts clarity.

Fix: The core problem here is the need to feel as if your business and your activities are more important and impressive than they really are. The fix, therefore, is a big dose of humility. Business is neither rocket science nor brain surgery--it is, in fact, a place where plain talk is both valued and appreciated.
More advice here.

No comments:

Post a Comment