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Close-up of an Opened Dictionary showing the Word WORD

Jargon, Buzzwords & Cliches to Avoid

Where a spoken word or words pass by quickly and may not have had a negative affect, the written word allows for much more critical review!

Just about four years ago I wrote an article for this publication ( discussed the verbal traps we all get caught in. Those words and phrases we use all the time, that everyone understands and helps us keep up with the conversation. With fewer face to face (or mask to mask) meetings taking place, the volume of written communication has significantly increased. Where a spoken word or words pass by quickly and may not have had a negative affect, the written word allows for much more critical review!

In the last few weeks I have personally seen and also had people send me examples of written communications that obviously did not have the benefit of proofreaders, editors, or high school English teachers! While you can revisit the article on Cliches, the comments I received had to do with grammar, jargon and buzzwords.

If you didn’t learn sentence structure in school, this article can’t but point out a few examples of what those that did pay attention learned.  Now these mistakes take focus away from what you are saying (writing) and lessen the impact of your communication.

Fire the general! Never say or write “general consensus” ever again. It is redundant. Learn that the word “myself” needs the action to be by the person using that word. For example, telling someone to “call Bill or myself” is just plain wrong! The word is “me”. But many people think the little word “me” doesn’t sound important enough so they use “myself” and in most cases wrongly.

“Less” and “fewer” seem to confuse many people. There would not be less children in the class, there would be fewer. However there might be less writing on the blackboar.

But there could be fewer dollars in a bag making the bag worth less! Confusing to be sure, but in many cases you can see or hear it just doesn’t sound right.

“More than” vs. “above” can be a problem. Generally speaking, ‘above’ refers to a physical position and ‘more than’ is a quantity. So Mary could earn more than Tom. She would not earn above Tom unless he was on the first floor and she on the second.

One of my favorite cringe worthy expressions is “hone in”. You can hone your skills or home in on the target, but nobody can hone in on anything!

And OMG – irregardless is not a word! It has been used for so long by many people that some sympathetic dictionaries call it “Non-Standard” rather than wrong. The word is regardless.

I’m sure you will pick up on many other similar misuses, mixed metaphors and contextually troubling word structures. The real substance of the conversations I had however was jargon and buzzwords.

Recently we have all been exposed to PPE, Personal Protective Equipment and now use that jargon as if we were familiar with the term forever. I could list hundreds (perhaps thousands) of three or four letter designations, abbreviations and symbols (FBI, IRS, WTO, NATO, USPS, etc.). From a marketing perspective, jargon and buzzwords should be kept to a minimum. Many people will use buzzwords and abbreviations in marketing communications to try to show the recipient that they are knowledgeable and fluent in the current language. But what is not considered is that if you use one reference that your client or prospect is not familiar with, you might lose all the momentum you were trying to build. A good rule to follow is that if you will be making reference to a word only once, don’t use anything other than the actual word. If it will be used more than once, then use the actual word followed by the jargon or abbreviation in parentheses. Then continue to use the shortened form.

If you ever received or reviewed a letter or document from a lawyer, you will certainly be familiar with this rule. A rule I follow in marketing communication is that the less familiar you are with the recipient, the more formal the communication should be and the fewer abbreviations should be used. The person receiving your letter might rely on expert staff for evaluation of proposals and using a lot of jargon that the exec might not be familiar with is not the way to win business,

Remember that everything that interacts with a client up until the moment a sale is made – is marketing. Every email, phone call, voice mail or online link, is marketing. Marketing is what creates the environment where a sale can take place.

Gregg Emmer is chief marketing officer and vice president at Kaeser & Blair, Inc. He has more than 40 years experience in marketing and the promotional products industry. His outside consultancy provides marketing, public relations and business planning consulting to a wide range of other businesses and has been a useful knowledge base for K&B Dealers. Contact Gregg at