Death to Buzz Words

What’s on the iPod: Still and Always Will by Vintage Trouble

writing, freelance, marketing

So far, so great this week. A massive, typically unwieldy project has been delivered to the client and the invoice is being processed. Also, I’m on top of an article assignment. All interviews are done and I’ve written the opening paragraphs. The rest is gravy. So I turned yesterday afternoon to my marketing drive for the upcoming conference.

It’s when I realized just how easily people can fall afoul with clients on their messaging. While I want to tell them I’m worth their money, I have to show that instead. And it’s when blog posts like Cathy Miller’s come in handy. Cathy takes on these throw-away words, but in a great, creative twist, turns them into assets.

However, most of us should just stay the hell away from them. Misuse is too rampant to unleash these words on the masses. And unless you’re willing to commit Cathy’s excellent advice to memory, don’t use them.

Think buzz words aren’t a problem? Try reading this:

Super-special Writing Services is a robust, full-service writing firm dedicated to bring you out-of-the-box ideas and cutting-edge creativity. Our writers are detail-oriented problem solvers and team players who create a proactive synergy that can deliver a paradigm shift within your organization.

My question — do I want my paradigm to be shifted? I’m never sure.

So how do you promote yourself in your tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn updates, or in emails without going there? Let’s start with that same message, rewritten:

At Super-special Writing Services, we are in love with ideas. We get our kicks by creating the most impactful, customized message that reflects who you are as a business and how you benefit your customers. We change perspectives with words and help you get noticed.

What’s changed? The “fluff” words are gone. Nothing in the message confuses, and none of the words are extraneous. None are what my husband and his colleagues call “bullshit” words — words that add nothing to the message other than muddying it.

So when crafting your next social media message or your latest email sales blast, keep these things in mind:

Keep it short. If it’s a letter of introduction (LOI), give enough information to state why you’re writing, give a little background, and show that you know their business. Otherwise, sales messages shouldn’t go over say 350 words. Remember, just enough info to get them interested. Think that’s too little? This blog post, to this point, is 420 words. Too much for an email, for sure.

Check each word. Your editing skills are essential here. Look at each sentence and each word. Is that the best way you can say it? No? Then fix it. Remember to pass it by your own bullshit meter — if someone sent you this message, would you believe it?

Lose all buzz words. I know a handful of large companies who are “getting real” with their messaging — cutting out buzz words, corporate speak, etc. Why? Because they see their customers wanting a stronger connection. Still, maybe paradigm shifting is what you do best. Guess what? If you say it, you won’t be doing it for this potential client. Just say “radically change” or any other more basic meaning of the same phrase. Show how you’re shifting paradigms without using those words. Please. I beg you.

Check your verys at the door. Very is an overused, under-performing word. It’s a place filler. It says nothing. Moreover, it shouts “I’m not creative enough to find a better word.” The same goes for “that”, which is also overused. It creates too many pauses in your message. Example:  “It’s the brand that Brad Pitt uses.” Just sounds better to say “It’s the brand Brad Pitt uses.”

Don’t forget the value. Seriously, if you’re sending a message that doesn’t tell your audience what the value is to them, skip it. You’re wasting your time. They want to hear the benefit to them, not a laundry list of how wonderful you are.

Look at your last email message to a potential client. What words can you cut out? What about that message works? Are there particular buzz words you’re attached to? Why?

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  • Cathy Miller January 10, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Thanks for the link love, Lori.

    It is so easy to fall into our overused words. When I'm not thinking about it, I do. As I told one reader, I think at times we all get lazy. I rely on my copy marinating at least overnight so I can edit for those sneaky bouts of laziness.

    What's frustrating is when you've done that and then the client edits them right back in. 🙁

  • Cathy Miller January 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    By the way, someone else liked that post so much they decided to scrape it for their own. Talk about lazy!

  • Lori January 10, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    That's a great idea, Devon!

    Cathy, that IS lazy. I would say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but that's not true. Theft is a pain in the arse.

  • Kimberly Ben January 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Aw, not again. That's happening way too much lately, Lori.

    I agree with Cathy's method of allowing copy to "marinate" overnight. It's amazing how a mere 24 hours can sharpen one's perspective.

  • Philippa Willitts January 20, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Hi Lori,

    I meant to let you know, then forgot, that this post was the Recommendation on our freelance writing podcast last week! If you want to check it out, it's, here.

    Great post!