Big words are a turnoff for most customers and make our offer sound like a Dilbert cartoon. So why do we use them when short words would do just fine? Who are we trying to impress?
Does monosyllabic really need five sounds? We’re in love with all things “Big”, and just assume big words make us sound more polished. But really they make us sound more like Dilbert’s boss. The worst culprits are vision statements, mission statements and “give-me-money” plans. But I see buzzwords in a lot of fancy attempts to sell things, too.
Dilbert and Woody Allen
Too much biz stuff sounds like it really was written by Scott Adams for a Dilbert cartoon. It’s meant to make us sound thoughtful, but instead it’s funny because it’s either tortured, fake, complex, a stretch, dumb, or just plain baffling. When we string one fancy word after the other, we sound more like a Woody Allen tirade than an expert in our field. It really just cheapens our image and makes us look uptight.
The Rule of Short Words
When writing a vision, mission, plan or sales copy, here’s a writing rule;
Be wary of any word with three or more sounds, chiefly those that contain any of the following letters: u, v, w, x, y, and z.
It’s not that you can’t use them, just be wary; test them and make sure you aren’t playing buzzword bingo and trying to sound smart. If there is a matching word with two or less sounds that works as well, use it.
Sound Like An Expert or Be One – You Choose
Here’s some classic terms used to play buzzword bingo, and simple words to use instead. All are three or more sounds and contain u, v, w, x, y, or z. Some of the worst are words ending in “ize”. The big words make you sound like an expert. The short ones might convince people you really are.
Actualize – Complete
Synergy – Teamwork
Synergistic – Really? Just don’t use it.
Dysfunctional – Broken
Intellectual – Smart
Operationalize – Make it work
Solutioning – Fixing
Empowering – Getting out of the way
Competency – Skill
Validate – Confirm
Conceptualize – Think, Picture, Form a Thought
Reorganization – Change
Monetize – Make money
Incentivize – Reward
Deliverable – Result
Proprietary – Mine, Ours
Recontextualize – move
Distract Them If We Can
In some cases, the buzzword is code for something else and the big word is used to distract you.
Multidisciplinary – Scattered
Adaptive – Uncertain, or confused
Synergistic – Looking for a friend
Analyze – We’re afraid to decide
Analysis – Beating a Dead Horse
By the way, except for the buzzwords themselves, this post was written using only words with two or fewer sounds. It’s not hard to keep things simple, but it’s really easy to make them complex.
Keep It Simple
Keep it simple and you’ll likely sound a lot more secure and a lot more like you know what you’re doing.