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Why does corporate America speak this way? What is the origin of this weird language?
Written during the Cold War, the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is a bleak commentary on the human race and a warning against the dangerous probabilities of communism.
When hearing the jargon we’ve adopted that is so prolific in business, I cringe. Yet, it is easy enough to slip into the temptation to use hackneyed phrases and clichés and it is frequently too great to overcome.
Challenging the current business lexicon while my contemporaries seemingly embraced the new language has been a solitary journey until recently. After attending a writing workshop entitled “Avoid Meaningless Clichés,” I realized that maybe I wasn’t so alone after all.
“Yes, yes, yes,” I wanted to shout! Elated, I Google searched, hungry for more evidence that there was a in fact, a tribe emerging who longed for straight talk.
Then in an issue of Entrepreneur magazine, Erika Napoletano of Redhead Writing further emphasized the impact that language can have on business and dubbed the term “buzzspeak” in her article Big think, small movement.
As law firm marketers, we know clients are hungry for solutions to problems; they want them fixed quickly. So skip the buzzwords and don’t give them any “bandwidth” (another one of my favorite words). Listen instead of talking their ear off.
Napoletano cites four useful tips when communicating:
Simplicity: If you want them to buy what you’re selling, don’t make them learn a new language or feel inadequate when they don’t understand what you’re selling. They will shut down and buy from someone else. Don’t we see this every day when trying to convey our message to lawyers? Lawyers generally hate marketing jargon.
Brilliance: True brilliance reveals itself in what you offer to your clients. Your solution makes THEM look brilliant. You don’t need buzzwords to make you look brilliant.
Time: Your solution should save them time whenever possible; don’t waste it, just get to the point.
Usability: Respect your audience by offering easy-to-use solutions that make sense for how they operate. Asking them to change their day-to-day routine won’t get you the yeses you crave.
Avoid these overused phrases whenever possible: Bandwidth, gravitas, bottom line, kicking the can down the road, drill down, on boarding, core competencies, value-added proposition, low-hanging fruit, going forward, take it to the next level, at the end of the day, and any other annoying phrases you hear every day, sometimes multiple times.
Finally, the folks at FightTheBull.com, and authors of the book Why Business People Speak Like Idiots, have developed a piece of software called Bullfighter that scans your writing for BS. I’m not kidding.
Editor’s Note: Susan Baldwin is a guest blogger and legal marketing manager at a top AmLaw 100 law firm.