Every industry has buzzwords. But the problem with buzzwords is that they lose their meaning and get in the way of what you’re really trying to say.
Since I moved to the Bay Area I’ve noticed that it has a special vocabulary all of its own. A local set of buzzwords that transcend industry. So, here are 6 words to ban from your vocabulary and some alternatives to use instead.
The next person who tells me they’re disrupting their industry is going to get (a polite, British-style) rant. True disruptors don’t tell you that they’re disrupting anything, they just get on and, well… disrupt.
Words to use instead: there are no synonyms here. Tell people what you’re doing and let them judge for themselves if it’s disruptive.
The same goes for innovative. If you’re truly innovative, you don’t need to shout about it, because others will do that for you.
Words to use instead: Think about what’s new and different about your product and how to communicate it creatively. If it’s truly innovative you’ll get noticed.
Are you really making something ‘delightful’? Or is it a word you heard was popular with the likes of Jack Dorsey, Sheryl Sandberg and Steve Jobs? Ultimately, there are very few tech interactions that ‘delight’. If you are building something that’s truly delightful find a different word to describe it. Delightful is used so often that the word has lost its impact.
Words to use instead: the micro-interactions are… pleasing/enjoyable/quirky. Better yet, show people the interactions and let them speak for themselves.
I recently spoke at a conference for online community managers. This isn’t an area I’m very familiar with and I wanted to understand what the definition of an online community is. After speaking to the organisers and the other speakers I realized that this is a pretty contested area. The word community is used so frequently that no one really knows what you’re referring to when you say it.
Words to use instead: If you truly are building a community be really specific about what that means. Is it a Facebook group, a social network or a community where people meet in real life? What does it offer it’s members? How do they participate?
When you said you were going to collaborate with someone it used to mean you were going to create something where the results were greater than the sum of their parts. When I think about a collaboration I think Gabrielle and East Seventeen singing If You Ever (that’s a reference for all the British kids born in the 80s). The problem is that because everyone in the Bay Area is ‘collaborating’ the word has lost its power. We no longer expect great things from collaboration.
Words to use instead: work together/with, collude with, fraternize with, conspire with… these lesser-used words will pique the interest of your audience.
The problem with the word excited is that it’s used to describe everything from how you feel about your cup of Blue Bottle coffee to your upcoming product launch. If you feel the same way about a hot beverage as you do about your business then it might be time to switch careers. The suggestions below work if you’re trying to demonstrate your enthusiasm for a work project.
Words to use instead: fascinated by, can’t wait to tackle, intrigued by, looking forward to getting stuck into.
English speakers are so lucky: we have a huge, rich and varied vocabulary at our fingertips. So next time you’re tempted to say something’s innovative, disrupt your usual habits and open a thesaurus. You’ll be delighted with the results. I promise!