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Don’t Get Buzzed: How to Use Buzzword Effectively

Voltaire once quipped that “one great use of words is to hide our thoughts.” A Wall Street Journal piece raised the issue of whether buzzwords actually obscure your message vs. serve as a shorthand code that everyone in an organization or social group understands.

The Journal highlighted words such as “innovation,” “solution,” and “creative” which in overuse may have stripped them of any meaning they once had.  Another WSJ study found that the word innovation appeared 33,528 times in the total of annual reports filed with the SEC in 2011. Similarly, PR Daily and Business Wire report that “solutions” was the most used word in companies’ headlines in 2011.

At CommCore, we’re agnostic about buzzwords – depending on how you use them and with or without additional proof points.  Here are a few guidelines:

Whenever you use buzzwords make sure that you:
    •    Use them precisely
    •    Back them up with specifics, stories, and examples
    •    Translate into plain English for audience members who may not know the lingo

Do not use a buzzword if:
    •    It is not easily understandable
    •    The lingo is so vague and expresses only bland generalities without supporting specifics
    •    You sound like everyone else

What’s your buzz on buzzwords?