Let’s be clear – really, let’s. Clarity, after all, is a hallmark of content marketing that clicks. It helps ensure that you’re saying exactly what you mean so that audiences really get you. One way to muddy messaging is by spiking it with jargon that’s imprecise, confusing, or both. If your communications aren’t on-point, audiences probably won’t stick with them – and they definitely won’t share them.
Marketers, like other professionals, bank on buzzwords to sound up-to-the-minute or to flaunt expertise, but the practice can backfire. Catchphrases that are inside baseball can leave room for misunderstanding, and these words and phrases have often lost their meaning by the time they’re trendy. Choosing words carefully for internal and external content helps avoid both traps, but it’s easy, even tempting, to use popular parlance.
Take the lofty-sounding “thought leadership,” a ubiquitous and arcane industry term that Imprint Managing Partner Andy Seibert wishes would go away. “It is just too pretentious,” he said. “There are so many thought leaders now. Were they all the first to think of something?” (Answer: no.)
Last year the Imprint team shared terms we wanted terminated. Buzzwords, like weeds, keep cropping up. For the summer of 2022, we’ve come up with a fresh batch.
We’ve been trying to stay clear of “authentic” for some time now, and it’s time we add “human” to the list. For starters, so many brands use it that it’s losing any true distinction. But more than that — who else are we speaking to? Robots? German shepherds? Accentuating the fact that we’re using “human” language only works to confirm that it’s a struggle for us to do it. We are humans talking to humans (unless you’re writing for a chatbot, which — there I might give you a pass). We can talk like humans without pointing it out.
– Dan Davenport, Editorial Director
As in, “What’s the ask?” or “It’s a big ask.” This one is pretty simple. Ask is a verb not a noun. It’s classic buzzword overreach to unnecessarily use a new word to replace another perfectly good word. When you need a noun in these situations, there’s no need to be gimmicky. Just call it a “request.” That’s not too much to ask.
– Nelson Peña, Senior Copywriter
As in, “I’m going to effort to get that for you.” Who actually talks like that? This is the opposite of “the ask.” This one is a noun that people are trying to use as a verb, presumably to sound more important. Don’t do that. To be a clear communicator, it’s better to just say “try” or “trying.”
– Nelson Peña, Senior Copywriter
“Close the loop”
It’s used incorrectly half the time anyway, so let’s call it quits on this one. Just ask “what were the results” or “how was _____ addressed.”
— Colter Hettich, Managing Editor
As in, “I’ll keep that in my back pocket.” It’s a phrase used to imply the intention of remembering information or resources that can be used at a later time. However, oftentimes it seems to be attached to information that will, in fact, not be remembered or used at a later time. When used, it just leaves me wondering, how big is that back pocket, and have you emptied it recently?
– Ryan Mohland, Associate Director
“Make it pop”
It’s overused to the point of being meaningless. It’s better to be specific and have purpose — for example: make it drive the reader to take an action; make the color more vibrant so it draws attention; or make the text larger so it is readable and engaging. Also, if everything “pops” then there is no hierarchy, and we’re not visually following a story.”
– Ashley Brenner, Creative Director
“At the end of the day”
Which day? The one that ends with “y”? And what happens when the next day starts? Being vague is counterproductive.
– Hanibal Luis Negron, Director
There was once a time when “direct mail” was an important differentiator, but that time has passed. No marketers are figuring out what to do for their next “indirect mail” campaign, so why don’t we collectively save our breath and just say “mail”?
– Robert Gonzalez, Senior Analyst
This is a fancy way of asking someone to send you a message or text. The word brings me back to the days when AIM existed and we would use the term “IM.” Let’s be direct and ask people to send us a message.
– Cynthia Marino, Associate Director
This word gets thrown around a lot, and is almost always wishful thinking. The definition is “being the only one of its kind,” so unless your product or service meets that very high bar, or is a piece of art, find another word.
– Lucy Warner, Associate Marketing Manager
What buzzwords and jargon do you love to hate? Ping us, er, send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.