Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why Can't They Just Say What They Mean?

Somewhere along the line, people have forgotten how to use simple, clear language in their business communications and insist on falling into a big bucket of jargon-y goo. Marketing-speak and consultant-comm are creeping into the common lexicon like boll weevils in a cotton patch, changing how we talk to each other. It would really be terrible if this problem extended into private, personal, informal conversation and I am thankful I have yet to hear this.

My rant is against using terms that are substitutes for more common everyday words. Here is a short list of my least favorite, commonly used terms:

1 - Leverage. When I was growing up this was a noun; now it is used frequently as a verb, "to leverage." Instead of people having leverage against a competitor or have the leverage to make something happen, now they leverage things, including money. You can read what says about it here. That's fine, except I am hearing the word used somewhat incorrectly over and over again and it's quite annoying. If you're using a resource, use the resource. Keep your levers out of my office.

2 - Analytics. Analytics is "the science of logical analysis" but it is now the ubiquitous term for analysis and reports, data and results.

3 - Metrics. Another annoying use of a word that began its life meaning something else --the metric system, metric tons . . . not measurements or data. See Analytics above.

4 - Client-facing. Oh, you mean the customer service and sales people? When I hear that all client-facing employees must do something, I cannot help but conjure up the image of too many people squished in an elevator or in a small office being forced to stand face-to-face trying to have a conversation. Perhaps I've just stumbled upon the concept for a new mouthwash commercial.

5 - Onboard. I don't mean vacationers who are on a cruise ship. This is used when a company brings a newbie on board . . . that person is "onboarded" which I take to mean acclimated, welcomed, oriented. But I don't really know; being a freelancer, I haven't been onboarded by a company lately. Not sure I want to be (sounds like waterboarding, no?). Alternate usage: to garner support for a project (getting people on board with you). I guess five or six words just sends some folks over the vocabulary edge.

6 - Stakeholder. Who has a stake in the company? Senior management, the owner, perhaps the board of directors if relevant. But this term has now extended to employees, clients/customers, the public. Of course, it is always better to have a stake in a company that a stake in the heart (any Van Helsing fans out there?).

Oh, I could go on but I won't. Maybe I'll rant about overused phrases such as "at the end of the day," or "off the hook." I just miss the days of saying what you mean in more than a word, using a full phrase, a long sentence -- just saying it! There are loads of really fun phrases that will keep you chuckling at the website, I found it recently and really enjoy reading what contributors submit. Some are ultra-clever, some are quite snarky, many are graphic in a good way. Check them out alphabetically at

Send me some of your least favorite newer terms that are tearing up our conversation and reducing modern discourse to a lot of words that used to mean one thing, now mean another, and others that just seem silly.

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