If you want to do business, say what you mean. That sounds so simple. But often reading a business report, memo, e-mail, or newsletter is like swimming in concrete. You have to STUDY the sentences and words to understand the message. Who has time for that?

Part of developing a clear and successful writing style is to eliminate jargon, define your acronyms, and don’t fall into the lazy habit of using what I call: biz speak, businessese, or corp talk. It’s those words that everyone uses but no one knows what they mean. Some of the ones on my hit list: value-added, functionality, shovel-ready, 360-degree thinking.

Biz speak loves industry buzzwords. They’re trendy and make the user feel cool, with it, important. When in reality, they are the crutch of a bad communicator. First of all, not all buzzwords mean the same thing to everyone. In “The Truth about the New Rules of Business Writing,” authors Natalie Canavor and Claire Meirowitz give the example of “turnkey training,” which educators use to denote “train the trainer” while in business it can mean ready-to-use training programs or training that produces ready-to-go workers.

A recent discussion on the Professional Editors Network (PEN) listserv bemoaned the use of “learnings,” which is cropping up like dandelions (even in the New York Times).

The irony of all this is that there is a website called www.learnings.org, “where corporate buzzwords go to die.” Thousands of peeved people have entered buzzwords into this online corporate buzzword dictionary. The site managers say it all started with the desire to kill “learnings.” Here’s their definition of the word: “A term created by marketers/researchers/morons to describe the collective insights gained from a particular campaign or experiment. It’s not recognized as a real word but seems to be making some serious rounds throughout the business world.”

So what to do with learnings? PEN editors are suggesting just make it “learning” or replace it with “lessons.”

Biz speak is used to impress–not express. No matter what business you’re in, words are one of your products. So if you want more fans on your Facebook page, more visitors to your website, and more customers, kill the buzzwords in your writing. Give them clarity, and they will give you loyalty.

P.S. What buzzwords torture you? I just found “onboarding” in the corporate buzzword dictionary. A bastardization of the phrase “to get someone on board,” it means “to get up to speed.” Sounds too much like waterboarding to me.


Bonus writing tip: Find more invaluable tips for putting zing in your writing at WriteTips.