Buzzwords say all the wrong things Matt 25 Sep 2006

77 comments Latest by One Monkey's Uncle

Our industry is addicted to bullshit buzzwords. Emails are full of “I’m an insider” jargon, blog posts brim with tech duckspeak, and resumes are loaded with meaningless action verbs. Everyone’s always implementing or enabling or optimizing or leveraging. There are endless value streams, efficiencies, solutions, infrastructures, and enterprises.

These buzzwords are often a mask. People who use them are covering up their ideas — or the lack thereof. They are overcompensating. They don’t have anything substantial to say so they try to use impressive sounding words instead.

But people who abuse buzzwords don’t sound smart. They sound like they are trying to sound smart. Big difference.

People who really get it aren’t impressed by this sort of jargon. They smell BS. They can read between the lines and see what’s really there: fear. Fear of clarity. Fear there isn’t actually anything worthwhile to convey.

Cut to the chase

Really want to impress someone with your words? Then either 1) be direct/clear or 2) shut up. Anyone worth impressing will respect you for saying less a lot more than they’ll respect you for using big words that don’t actually say anything.

Tech folks often use terms that imply we’re part of some secret club. It’s as if we’re saying, “We can speak in a code that those other people can’t understand.” It’s a way to build a wall that separates us from them. It’s a form of exclusion.

You don’t need to build walls or exclude people when you’re confident in your message though. When you’re confident in your message, you want everyone to understand.

When you really have a point, you want to say it sharp so it can penetrate deep.

The power of simple statements

Great communicators recognize the power of simple statements. They realize that important ideas don’t have to be dressed up in fancy language.

For example, Edward Tufte does a wonderful job of communicating complex concepts in a simple way. Even though he’s a Yale professor, he avoids relying on highbrow academic terms. Some examples of Tufte’s plainspoken style:

“Lurking behind chartjunk is contempt for both information and audience.”…”Simple design, intense content.”…”The idea of trying to create things that last — forever knowledge — has guided my work for a long time now.”…”If you look after truth and goodness, beauty looks after herself.”…”If your words aren’t truthful, the finest optically letter-spaced typography won’t help. And if your images aren’t on point, making them dance in color in three dimensions won’t help.”

Simple language, intense meaning. Tufte realizes that clear and obvious thinking needs to be evident in words just as much as it does in charts or graphs.

Another example: Albert Einstein. Einstein’s scientific writing may be tough for the layman to understand. But it’s interesting to note how he could tone down his ideas for mass consumption too. He often used simple words that both physicists and regular people could understand:

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”…”Imagination is more important than knowledge.”…”Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing.”

Simple language spreads quicker

Simple statements are more likely to be understood. They’re more likely to spread. Gandhi realized this and spoke in words that everyone could grasp. Some examples:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”…”The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”…”What do I think of Western civilisation? I think it would be a very good idea.”

MLK often relied on language everyone could understand too:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”…”Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”…”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

OK, you’re probably not trying to change the world. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the techniques of people who managed to do just that.

Big ideas via little words

Too many techies resort to “implementing enterprise synergies in order to create an immersive experience that will help execute in a nascent market to blah blah blah.” If simple language was good enough for Ghandi and Einstein, it should work just fine for explaining your web app, job experience, or firm’s process.

77 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Andy 25 Sep 06

Great post. One of my favorites in this is The Economist: although they target professionals, they write in a clear and concise way. See the tips from their style guide for example:
http://economist.com/research/styleGuide/index.cfm?page=673915
http://economist.com/research/styleGuide/index.cfm?page=673919
http://economist.com/research/styleGuide/index.cfm?page=673925

Faith 25 Sep 06

Some of the most egregious abuses of language show up in job descriptions. I just spent some time crawling through job postings on Monster.com and CareerBuilder and the amount of vague meaninglessness layered on top of BS was truly staggering.

I came away with two observations: 1) Companies are not willing to pay for good writing. They want their editor/copywriter/content manager to also be their web designer/programmer. Sure, right. 2) Job descriptions are packed with everything they, their boss, and their company manual thinks the position should do. All of this will have nothing to do with the actual job.

I wish there were more job boards like the one here.

Matt Todd 25 Sep 06

It’s simple: if the job description is filled with that much crap, the job may well be crap, because the company doesn’t give a crap about not making crap.

This isn’t an absolute rule for me, but I make it a point to look very critically at companies with such garbage in their job descriptions.

M.T.

Walker Hamilton 25 Sep 06

And yet….somehow, even the job board here has people posting to it with buzzwords:

“Web 2.0 Application Developer at eBay Inc.”

Ben 25 Sep 06

And I fear ‘simple’ has become a buzzword… after all, who out there is striving to build bloated, hard-to-use, software.

Philip Stevens 25 Sep 06

I agree whole-heartedly; but all too often I see [poor] management buying into the BS; either that or I have a set of secret decoder glasses given to me at birth to spot such crap spewed by people. I would add the word “Utilize” to your list of words towards the top of the post; that one is my biggest pet peeve word of someone trying to sound smart.

Joe Ruby 25 Sep 06

Great post. People also learn a lot of this wordiness in school, where academics also use this tactic to cover up their lack of creativity and production.

Jason 25 Sep 06

Well said! I was just debating a very similar topic with a law student. I was arguing the side that lawyers have leveraged the complexity of language in order to charge a premium for their services. If the lay person can’t understand the legal gibberish in a contract, then they must go out and find someone who can, and then pay them for their services. From a business standpoint it kinda makes sense to create a market for yourself, but I think it contributes to the ‘sleazy’ image lawyers have.

Anonymous Coward 25 Sep 06

I recently took a new job, switching back from the client to the agency side, something I swore I would never do again. Why did I do it? Because the final offer letter clearly articulated what I was expected to do in my position within the first year.

There were no job responsibilities such as the following:

“Regularly interface with shared service partners for alignment and cross-communications of services being provided, strategic vision, and compliance with CFT standards.”

What in the heck does that mean? Is there a purpose to interfacing with Shared Services? Will something actually be accomplished when ‘interfacing’ with them regularly? What are CFT standards? Isn’t this just a description of a schedule meeting?

Clear, no nonsense descriptions speak volumes about whether you would even consider working for a company. It not only changed my mind about going to back to an agency, but gave me confidence in the fact that they had actually thought why they need me for the position in the first place.

Andy Kant 25 Sep 06

Walker: That job description may have a buzzword in it, but atleast its a buzzword that describes a specific skillset. This is probably a good way to ensure that they reach people with “web 2.0” experience rather than some old ASP classic developers or something.

josh susser 25 Sep 06

Everyone should read “How I Write” by Betrand Russell (the inadvertent grandfather of object-oriented programming). I’ve put up a copy on my site as a public service. My favorite bit is the following, near the end:

Take, say, such a sentence as the following, which might occur in a work on sociology: “Human beings are completely exempt from undesirable behaviour-patterns only when certain prerequisites, not satisfied except in a small percentage of actual cases, have, through some fortuitous concourse of favourable circumstances, whether congenital or environmental, chanced to combine in producing an individual in whom many factors deviate from the norm in a socially advantageous manner”. Let us see if we can translate this sentence into English. I suggest the following: “All men are scoundrels, or at any rate almost all. The men who are not must have had unusual luck, both in their birth and in their upbringing.” This is shorter and more intelligible, and says just the same thing.

Tatum 25 Sep 06

I’ve always noticed that the shortest emails come from those with the most power in the organization.

Erin 25 Sep 06

Editors of the world, unite!

Andy 25 Sep 06

Is there some reason my comment (about the Economist) didn’t get through?

ML 25 Sep 06

Andy, MT flagged that comment as spam. It’s up now though.

Andy 25 Sep 06

Nevermind, it just showed up as the first message. For some reason it wasn’t immediately visible.
Sorry for the noise!

Greg 25 Sep 06

That bit about Einstein reminds me an awful lot of Carl Sagan - it had the same way of making complex science understandable but still wonderful for the general layman.

ZV 25 Sep 06

Thanks for the great post. Not to be a spellcheck Nazi, but its “Gandhi” and not “Ghandi”.

The Mahatma is also famous for communicating succintly (“Quit India!”) that was used to rally thousands of illiterate people in India’s freedom struggle, whom he recognized as key drivers. The educated elite responded better to complex writing but were a minority in affecting change.

Daniel 25 Sep 06

I agree that to explain something to someone not involved in your business it’s stupid to use jargon/academic language. But to dismiss academic language altogether as gibberish is to be way too simple.

An interesting comparison is the much praised framework behind much of 37Signals success. It is a domain specific language built on top of a more general language, which is much like academic language built on top of more common speach.

Even though the same functionality can be achieved by using only the more general terms of the underlying programming language, the domain specific language actually helps the programmer to be more specific and more to the point. To achieve more in fewer words. For anyone new to the framework there is a learning curve, since they have to learn new terms and sometimes even new grammar.

Just like that, anyone who studies a subject at some dept will benefit from not having to use verbose language on common terms and ideas, but rather use well defined (and possibly “academic”) terms and both be more precise and get more time to talk about the actual area of interest.

Know when to use what language, the key is to communicate.

Phil Dokas 25 Sep 06

So basically you’re saying this video about Rockwell Automation’s Retro Encabulator is a bad thing?

Alex 25 Sep 06

Please - it’s Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi - NOT Ghandi.

Bryan Wilhite 25 Sep 06

The use of jargon descends from the culture of warfare. Jargon is one of the last layers of obsfucation when military-grade encryption is broken. Jargon is was soldiers throw around in the barracks. Remember the original meaning of SNAFU?

Think of corporate skyscrapers as military command centers and take the term “corporate officer” seriously. The study of war is never far from the casual conversation of the properly assimilated.

Joe Sheehan 25 Sep 06

I remember a discussion between thought and language in my mandatory college English Comp class. The professor postulated that there is a strong correlation between thought and language (I’m sure there’s some academic basis for what he said in the world of psychology but I never researched it). Generally, I believe him.

If you believe that thought and language are tightly coupled in our head, then simple language would generally create/reflect simpler thought. A great way to use analysis of someone’s language to understand better how they think.

This is a great post, definitely a SvN Top 10.

Joe Ruby 25 Sep 06

“Remember the original meaning of SNAFU?”

Java?

--Josh 25 Sep 06

The buzz word that really drives me crazy is “space” when used to mean a market. Such as “XYZ is a great new product in the video conversion space.” Arghhhh. If you’re not willing to look at your market as a market you’re never going to make any money. It used to be a DotCom thing but seems to be creeping back. Drives me crazy for some reason.

Jeroen 25 Sep 06

Just wanna say, brilliant article!

PK 25 Sep 06

I’m totally in the same boat my friend. I mean why does our industry have to make up 2.0 this and that, I like to add it to my blog for entertainment sake, I try my hardest to name it each new web app some terrible long 2.0 acronym. This industry is an exciting place to be with new ideas coming up all the time, why do we have to make ourselves like every old industry that has been around and define boundaries and boxes.

PK 25 Sep 06

I’m totally in the same boat my friend. I mean why does our industry have to make up 2.0 this and that, I like to add it to my blog for entertainment sake, I try my hardest to name it each new web app some terrible long 2.0 acronym. This industry is an exciting place to be with new ideas coming up all the time, why do we have to make ourselves like every old industry that has been around and define boundaries and boxes.

Henrik 25 Sep 06

CV’s are meaningless.

You take the add and rewrite your skills using all the keywords in the add. When you get to the interview you figure out who you are talking to and then speak their language.

Henrik 25 Sep 06

CV’s are meaningless.

You take the add and rewrite your skills using all the keywords in the add. When you get to the interview you figure out who you are talking to and then speak their language.

Cem 25 Sep 06

Clear words.

Marcus 25 Sep 06

I’m so close to saying “I call bullshit” on this. If Einsten tried to communicate the precise meaning of his theories, such as the curvature of space, he sure as hell used precise language. That has little to do with buzzwords. Saying Lorentzian Manifold when you mean a Lorentzian Manifold will probably shut out alot of readers, but it expresses precisely what you mean about your space.

Anyway, just a minor tangent. I really like Tufte’s quotes, and the gist of the posting.

Richard D. Bartlett 25 Sep 06

The ‘secret club’ effect is also prevalent in education of mathematics and other sciences. When I tutor kids, my first challenge is always to debunk this secret club, the faux-elite that understand differential trigonometric calculus for instance. Sometimes it seems there is a deliberate and intentional attempt by the technical community to make things appear more difficult and complex than they are, a highly disingenuous way of adding cement to their pedestal.

Concise clarity can be readily applied to any truly important idea.

Marcus 25 Sep 06

Richard: As opposed to saying “Finding formulas to express the rate-of-change of a few functions that relate to angles in triangles that has the property that one angle is 90 degrees”? :)

ML 25 Sep 06

If Einsten tried to communicate the precise meaning of his theories, such as the curvature of space, he sure as hell used precise language.

Sure, “insider” terms can be effective and necessary at times.

Here are two of the definitions for jargon at dictionary.com:

1. the language, esp. the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group.

2. language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning.

It’s that second form of jargon that’s the real problem.

kelake 25 Sep 06

When you really have a point, you want to say it sharp so it can penetrate deep.

Bit violent of a metaphor don’t you think?

Stephen 25 Sep 06

I agree wholeheartedly that the best way to write, and thus pitch with words, is to be succinct. But brevity is a skill of the elite, and will target those customers. Sometimes it is necessary to choose between wide appeal and appealing to cliques. You don’t hear many politicians getting away with plainspeak no matter how much Orwell warned us of the opposite; and that is maybe something Edward Tufte has glanced over as a political statistician. The Economist style guide is an exemplar of good writing style, yet the paper has a circulation of a million.

You are right to charge your industry with this crime. But this is the industry which allowed the less-than-precise Microsoft to become the richest corporation in the world. You are describing best practice for having customers you like, and self-respect, but not necessarily the best model for making money, winning the pitch, and gaining custom. You’re in danger of stating that it may work in practice, and then asking, “but does it work in theory?”

Don’t get me wrong — I do wish people would realise the beauty of clear language. But then I’ve spent a whole day editing press releases, deleting every second word, so I’m maybe a little disillusioned.

Ali 25 Sep 06

Great post.

I also don’t get it when people fill their resumes with all this mumbo-jumbo which doesn’t make any sense, and are also afraid of using any humor/jokes just because they want to sound “Professional.”

People don’t care whether or not you ‘sound’ professional, they just want to know if you can do the job! And a little humor would make you look different and put you apart from all the other people they interviewed today. That is, unless the person on the other side is a 65 year old grumpy retired school principal, in which case you probably don’t want the job.

Brian Shensky 25 Sep 06

When asked about the future of things, I’ve always enjoyed sharing this quip:

“The future is like the present, only more so.”

Torley 25 Sep 06

What I particularly dislike is when “buzzwords” didn’t start as such, but had original punch before they were stretched in too many directions and diluted like a drop of orange juice concentrate in a water.

Too many big words bore the heck outta me — can I ask for more pictures in resumes? Oh, no, that might be too “unprofessional”.

I don’t understand or relate to some of this protocol thing either. I’m all for being polite, but I like mixing up street talk with more formal phrasing.

I find too that too often, people look at each other as to what to do right, and turns out they’re all doing wrong, so they collapse without infusing more ideas from outside their particular sphere of knowledge. Reminds me of the time when I was a classical music snob and it felt *awfully* incestual, with all these hoity-toity Italian words being toted around, but the actual compositions sounded like crap — at least to me.

I won’t be a harsh judge, but at the same time, some might go WWJD, as in “What Would John (Maeda) Do?” :D

Michael Marzec 26 Sep 06

Kudos fish! An off-topic but I think it’s Virginia not Virgina, guys.

Ben Darlow 26 Sep 06

Simple test for technology companies today. Does your website look like a spoof of www.huhcorp.com? If so; worry.

milo 26 Sep 06

Excellent post, at last someone’s talking truth.

Vasco Duarte 26 Sep 06

Really good piece. I could not agree more. I recently ran into a real life example of how bad death by buzzword intoxication can be.

Here is the example.

Daniel Monday 26 Sep 06

My thoughts exactly. From this post I’m reminded of the good ole acronym KISS, for Keep It Simple Stupid. One of my favorites.

However, I also think that “simple” is defined differently for different people, markets, etc. So, keeping it simple when talking to scientists may be different than keeping it simple for accountants, or fashion designers, or single moms, or blacksmiths, or hippies, or…you get the idea. You have to tailor your language and word choice to the folks you’re speaking to.

Great post. Nice references to Gandhi and Einstein.

Zack Jenks 26 Sep 06

It seems that often times it’s easy to make things hard and hard to make things easy!

Balaji M 26 Sep 06

A very interesting and thought provoking post. Well said.

Richard 26 Sep 06

Hi,

the funny thing is whenever someone asks me a question about how to do something with some buzzword technology, like “how to do XYZ with XML XPath?” I answer with the following question “What are actually trying to do?”. Most of the time it’s much more productive to think in Terms of problems and solutions and not in the context of a specific technology.

Rob 26 Sep 06

Buzz Words can be overused and abused, but when you’re looking for a job and the person/or computer is looking for buzzwords, it becomes a necessity.
In most cases in my experience on resumes to get your foot in the door. Today, I got a call from someone who found my resume online (job board will not be named to protect its identity ;) ) and the reason they called me was because my resume had the keywords that matched those in the job description. Overall, I do agree with the post and I hate the abuse of buzzwords in the media and at work, but sometimes its a necessity.

-R

Chris W 26 Sep 06

I never, ever get tired of reading articles that advocate straightforward communication.

I’m the tech writer for a Microsoft partner. I have to fight every day to stick to simple language. Nearly every edit tries to inject BS buzzwords for no reason at all.

(No, really. I ask them why they added a buzzword AND THEY DON’T KNOW.)

I’m thinking of “accidentally” forwarding this article companywide. Oops, did I do that?

Kelly 26 Sep 06

This is a great post - I’m back in school after working for several years and gearing up to write a research paper and in the back of my head I kept getting the creeping feeling that I was going to have to bust out the dictionary to make sure I sound ‘smart enough’ and use enough big words. I’m sure writing as simply and powerfully as possible will be enough.

But am I the only one here who thinks designers ARE trying to change the world? No, we may not be modern day Gandhis, but isn’t the aim to make technology as intuitive and seamless as possible so that people’s lives are made a little easier? That sounds like some world-changing to me.

Ben 26 Sep 06

No seriously… how many times has the word ‘simple’ been used on this page?

Tom 26 Sep 06

Great post, great advice. the world would be a better place, etc.

Echoing Chris W. As a freelance copywriter for several tech and corporate clients (and a former tech writer myself), I have found a LOT of resistance to clean, simple “shirtsleeve English”. Too many corporate types seem to think clear language and everyday words somehow reduce the value of their ideas. I personally spend a lot of time and effort (first) trying to penetrate, analyze and understand the corporate jargon tossed around, (then) rewriting it in clean, simple language.

Like Chris, I’ve found that far too often the clients want their crap language put back in. They think saying “utilize” instead of “use” makes them sound smarter. They LIKE their jargon — even if the people they’re trying to reach (prospects, customers) have to struggle to figure out what they’re talking about!

Sadly, I think both Twain and Strunk would be unemployed today…

joel 26 Sep 06

Great post. Nothing personal, Faith, but I once had a journalism professor who, when asked, “what is the most egregious offense a reporter can commit?” responded, “using the word egregious.”

joel 26 Sep 06

Great post. Nothing personal, Faith, but I once had a journalism professor who, when asked, “what is the most egregious offense a reporter can commit?” responded, “the use of the word egregious.”

JMill 26 Sep 06

One of the best pieces of advice on communication I’ve run across: “If you don’t understand a concept well enough to explain it to an eight year old, you don’t really understand it completely yourself.”

JM

Ralph Kramden 26 Sep 06

OMG! Congratulations on your blinding grasp of the obvious. Isn’t blogging peachy?

Nathan 26 Sep 06

Great Article, much praise for you. I’m a grad student that worked for 2 IT companies prior to going back to school, so I have a sense of where you are coming from. Basically, it comes down to what new word can they come up with in order to confuse and take the customer’s money. It’s a sad, sad world.

James 26 Sep 06


Ben, ya kidding me? I can think of one particular company in Washington that’s made Billions…
>And I fear ‘simple’ has become a buzzword… after all, who
>out there is striving to build bloated, hard-to-use, software.

I think simple and easy to use have too often confused with “features” in software speak. Good organization and relevant features can do more for productivily than adding more and more.

James 26 Sep 06


Ben, ya kidding me? I can think of one particular company in Washington that’s made Billions…
>And I fear ‘simple’ has become a buzzword… after all, who
>out there is striving to build bloated, hard-to-use, software.

I think simple and easy to use have too often been confused with “features” in software speak. Good organization and relevant features can do more for productivily than adding more and more.

Joe D'Andrea 26 Sep 06

Right on, Matt - that’s what I call offering value-added solutions to your subscriber base. You’re really driving efficiencies now! (Ba-dum.)

Actually, I must recommend “Why Business People Speak Like Idiots” for your bookshelf (if not there already). A humorous and sobering read.

James 26 Sep 06


Ben, ya kidding me? I can think of one particular company in Washington that’s made Billions…
>And I fear ‘simple’ has become a buzzword… after all, who
>out there is striving to build bloated, hard-to-use, software.

I think simple and easy to use have too often been confused with “features” in software speak. Good organization and relevant features can do more for productivily than adding more and more.

James 26 Sep 06


Ben, ya kidding me? I can think of one particular company in Washington that’s made Billions…
>And I fear ‘simple’ has become a buzzword… after all, who
>out there is striving to build bloated, hard-to-use, software.

I think simple and easy to use have too often been confused with “features” in software speak. Good organization and relevant features can do more for productivily than adding more and more.

Anonymous Coward 26 Sep 06

@ZV: Good catch. I was about to mention the spelling error.

While we are policing, here are some nitpicks:

> The Mahatma is also famous for communicating succintly (“Quit India!”) that was used to rally thousands of illiterate people ….

Gandhi inspired millions: Even in 1942, India was heavily populated.

> The educated elite responded better to complex writing but were a minority in affecting change.

I believe the goal was to effect change, not affect change.

BrettFromTibet 26 Sep 06

I did public relations for a department at the local university. Unfortunately, all the web copy and press releases I wrote had to be “edited” by the dean. She was really into “improving” my simple, audience-focused style with lots of obscure academic-sounding words, passive voice, and long
strings of (similar) adjectives separated by commas.

She also liked to include the full name of the university and her department in every other sentence. Yikes!!!!!!!!

PJP 27 Sep 06

AWESOME ! :)
I thoroughly enjoyed the post. Particulary the quotes from Gandhi and Einstein are seriously provocative.

Very well said.

Richard 27 Sep 06

The Einstein example totally misses the point. He may have uttered these phrases, but they didn’t consitute the main body of his work. If you had posted Einstein describing the intricacies of, say, the field equation of general relativity, and in a manner even the scientifically most inapt could understand, then you’d have had a point.

Certain areas simply require certain vocabularies.

Aman 27 Sep 06

Speak from the heart and the rest follows suit… When you speak from your heart, you’ll never try/need to beautify your message with archaic words. The equation is simple.

Using crazy hifi words is only to put up your guards against people who might see through your facade.

Amazing post!!

Steve 27 Sep 06

One problem: these aren’t tech words. They’re management-speak. Suitgab. Execu-waffle. Techies wouldn’t be caught dead using this kind of gabble. (We have our own incomprehensible jargon.)

Jeff 27 Sep 06

https://jf.backpackit.com/pub/194991

Nothing smells of irony, like your own buzz-centric website.

Jason Liebe 27 Sep 06

Great post.

Let’s not forget 6 Easy Pieces, that’s a masterpiece of communication. If those physics/chemistry concepts can be communicated clearly to non-scientists anything can.

And in response to someone elses post that stated there aren’t people out to build bloated software, I say there certainly are! They may not call it by the same name, but there is the one-stop-shop mentality — some companies fear that missing out on one feature will send their prospects elsewhere. So by covering all their bases they built a massive hunka hunka burning chum.

Jim 27 Sep 06

Agreed buzzwords and excessive speech become tiresome fast.

But we should to this stuff like quoting Einstein, Gandhi, and MLK out of context in order to (try to) drive your point home. I’ll give you the Tufte quote, which is directly related, but the others make you victim of your own complaint.

Stafford 27 Sep 06


One of my favorite quotes…

“Never use a big word, when I diminutive one will suffice”

Steve 27 Sep 06

“Omit needless words.”
—William Strunk, Jr.

John Ounpuu 28 Sep 06

I agree that most buzzwords are worthy of all the scorn they are receiving, but I think there are some exceptions.

Sometimes buzzwords have the power to shake people out of their half-sleeping state and wake them up to a new idea. If that idea is in fact worthy and worth spreading, it stands to reason that those (admittedly rare) buzzwords actually serve a worthwhile purpose.

I’m thinking, for example, of a term coined by Seth Godin a few years back: permission marketing. The basic idea is that no one likes to be harassed by spam or junk mail so marketers should only send stuff to people who have asked for it.

A worthy idea in my book at least.

The problem, of course, is that once those worthy buzzwords have delivered their message to the world they don’t go quietly away to die a dignified death. Instead they tend to linger like an unwanted guest and pretty soon they’re getting used way too often by people who don’t really understand them but want to sound clever in meetings.

Is it just me or is there some universal life lesson in there somewhere?


Stefan Poulos 02 Oct 06

Anyone else notice that most design portfolio sites that have big promises, meaningless flash intros, music, and just an overall over-designed look tend to have not-so-good work?

One Monkey's Uncle 07 Oct 06

Actually, no - mostly because when I run into a design portfolio site with big promises, meaningless flash intros, music and an overall over-designed look… I bail. If that’s an agency’s idea of “good communication design,” that’s not an agency I want executing my work.

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