Eleven cliché words of business writing
Have you ever noticed how some words are used and thrown around so much, they tend to lose their meaning? They are used to describe practically every alternate product and service out there. They have become so generic, they can be freely applied to any kind of content. For some reasons, companies and organizations love these words, and use them time and again. Some examples are
Cutting-edge. The dictionary defines it as being at the forefront, or the lead. It has been used to describe everything from computer technology, to quality of education, to factory processes, to microwaving, to diapers. In short, everything can be cutting-edge. This doesn't really leave your product with any cutting-edge anymore.
Innovation. I can already hear many of you thinking 'What the hell! Innovation is a real word!" Yes it is, but in recent times it has also joined the league of exhausted words. Just about every company out there, from tech firms to textile mills claims to use 'cutting-edge innovation'. Nobody really knows what this cutting-edge means anymore.
Out of the box (thinking). The real meaning of this phrase is to think differently. However, so many people claim to do it that you can safely put them all back in one big box. Wanting to say you are creative does't mean you always have to spell it out.
The big picture means the complete view of something. Hopefully, most businesses should have the big picture in mind anyway. But this is a tricky one, if you claim to see the big picture, you are forgetting about details. And if you claim details are all-important, you will be accused of missing the big picture. It's a lose-lose situation.
Paradigm shift implies a radical change in basic beliefs or theory. It's not enough to say you have created change anymore. Even small alterations strut about as paradigm shift. These two words together sound so grand, numerous writers just can't keep off them. They creep into numerous pieces of text. Companies are either creating paradigm shifts or being a paradigm shift. All these paradigms are making us pretty shifty.
Push the envelope. Where the hell is this envelope, and is it so heavy that you really have to push it? With all this out of the box thinking and pushing the envelope, is there a single non-creative person, just simply doing good ol-fashioned work left out there?
Next generation. Everything has to be next generation, it is a basic law of life. Nobody can go back to the way things were. Pepsi started this craze with the Generation Next tagline, and some generations have never quite gotten over it.
Game changing. This one is a close relative of Mr Paradigm Shift. Game-changing strategies are creating paradigm shifts the world over.
World class. Cash prizes to anyone who can find companies that don't claim to be 'world class'.
Customer satisfaction guaranteed. This is the omnipresent, holy grail of copy. You may see many variations of it. The truth is, if somebody has to tell you that they are going to guarantee your satisfaction, chances are they may not.
Eco-whatever/Sustainablity. Don't get us wrong, we have the greatest respect and admiration for environmentalists, and we know the planet is in crisis mode. But every Tom, Dick and Ramu slapping the eco-tag on themselves, just to increase sales, is really not called for. In India, where environmental norms are pathetic and scarcely enforced, half the people claiming they are eco-friendly are quietly dumping buckets of sludge into the nearest river. Sustainability often means sustaining a fat profit margin.
The author is co-founder and Director, Content Design at Steta