We all know a buzzword when we hear one.

(Even “buzzword” itself is a buzzword.)  

In the marketing world, buzzwords are important-sounding words or phrases, usually bits of jargon, that are popular in a particular context at a particular time. They’re meant to generate “buzz” about something, to grab someone’s attention. And it’s understandable how they become popular in the first place: they often pack a ton of meaning into a pithy, memorable word.

The problem is, when overused, they become stale and rather meaningless. And they can leave people feeling confused, wary, left out of the loop. Which certainly doesn’t endear them to your brand or business.

So here are a few categories of buzzwords to beware of:

Adjectives that Don’t Really Say Anything

  1. Innovative

  2. Unique

  3. Dynamic

  4. Strategic

  5. Ultimate

  6. World-class

The above words are all fluff. If someone described a product or service with them, would they have any effect on you? Probably not.

As copywriter Henneke Duistermaat says in this article, it’s better to explain why or how these adjectives are true of something. Clearly and briefly lay out the features and benefits. Take Apple’s marketing copy about the camera on their new new iPhone 7:

“iPhone is the most popular camera in the world. Now we’ve reengineered that beloved camera, adding optical image stabilization, an ƒ/1.8 aperture, and a six-element lens to make it even better for shooting photos and videos in low light. And with advanced new features like wide color capture, your photos and Live Photos will look even more vibrant.”

See that? Features and benefits. I know I’m sold. Anyone want to buy me one?
 

Titles Business Leaders Give Themselves

Things Like:

  1. Guru

  2. Ninja

  3. Rockstar

Are you a spiritual leader and guide within Hinduism, a warrior who is highly proficient in the Japanese martial art of ninjutsu, or a famous musician in the rock-and-roll world? No? Then these titles might not apply to you.

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Of course, these words have less literal meanings, but they’ve been played out. People see these words so often on social media and blogs that they’ve started not to mean much. If tens of thousands of people are “business gurus” and “rockstar sales analysts,” who exactly does one trust?

This excerpt of an infographic by copywriter Kathryn Wheeler gives some good alternatives:

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Random Words That Bug the Copywriter in Me

Every blog will have different words they say are overused. There may not be one right answer, but the key is to be aware of language, and to constantly analyze it to make sure it still packs the punch it was meant to. Here are a couple buzzwords I think we should move away from:

  1. Hack

“Hack” can mean: to chop, to cleverly modify a computer program, to break into with the intent to cause harm, or refer to a professional who is bad at his or her job. Nowadays, it seems everything’s a “growth hack” or a “life hack.” And it’s making me hack (cough, cough).

Some alternatives: shortcut, tip, or solution.

     2. Actionable

Remind me why we turned this noun into an adjective? It just sounds silly. If a business is basing decisions on some data, they could just talk about why they’re taking action instead of calling it “actionable data”.

Some alternatives: practical, applicable, ready-to-use, easily implemented.

Here’s a list of some other buzzwords that are white noise in your customers’ ears:

  1. Leverage

  2. Alignment

  3. Pivot

  4. Synergy

  5. Optimize

  6. Disrupt

  7. Viral

  8. Scalable

  9. ROI

I’ll leave you with this:

Buzzwords often draw attention inward to you or your business, when the focus should be outward toward your customers or clients. You want to increase trust and relatability, not alienate people with gibberish. If you’re wondering whether your writing is too buzzword-y, freelance copywriter Alaura Weaver suggests asking yourself these questions:

  1. Is this written like I’m talking to a good friend?

  2. Is this word essential to the story I want to tell?

  3. Is this how to voice in my head actually sounds?

  4. Does this sound natural when read aloud?

If you answered “no” to any of these, you may have a few buzzwords holding your writing hostage. People just want to know why they should care. Why should they spend their time or money on a marketing scheme and what it’s selling? If they should care, explain why. Clearly, eloquently, in plain English, with maybe a dash of humor.

If you can do that, you’ll have all the buzz you can handle.