Most Annoying Buzzwords

“Social media” isn’t just a trend taking the world by storm; it’s also the term advertising and marketing executives ranked as the most annoying industry buzzword in a survey by The Creative Group. Also high on the list: “synergy” and “ROI,” which rankled respondents in a similar survey conducted in 2006. The national study was developed by The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service providing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm.

Advertising and marketing executives were asked, “In your opinion, what is the most annoying or overused buzzword in the creative/marketing industry today?” The top-ranked responses include:
1.    “Social media/social networking”
2.    “Synergy”
3.    “Free”
4.    “Innovative/innovation”
5.    “ROI/return on investment”
6.    “Extra value/value added”
7.    “Model(s)”
8.    “Telemarketing”
9.    “Social media expert”
10.  “Resolve”
11.  “Moving forward”
12.  “Branding”
13.  “Multitasking”
14.  “Going green”
15.  “Proactive”
16.  “Think out of the box”
17.  “Culture change”
18.  “End of the day”
19.  “Interactive”
20.  “24/7”
21.  “Integrated/integration”
22.  “Viral”
23.  “The big idea”
24.  “Leverage”
25.  “Unique”

“Certain terminology has become firmly ingrained in the way advertising and marketing professionals think and speak, and often helps colleagues communicate ideas more quickly,” said Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group. “But when professionals need to grab attention or have an important message to deliver, excessive use of buzzwords can cause people to lose interest and tune out.”

The Creative Group offers four tips for eliminating jargon in your communications:

1.    Translate your thoughts. It’s typical to think in the lingo you use every day. But when putting your ideas to paper or in an e-mail, take the time to explain the concepts in terms that your audience will easily understand.
2.    Edit, edit, edit. Many buzzwords are unnecessary. Think carefully: Does a phrase like “at the end of the day” really add to what you’re trying to say? Probably not.
3.    Break bad habits. We all rely on certain phrases when we speak. If the ones you gravitate toward are on the list of annoying buzzwords, think of alternatives that convey the same meaning.
4.    Show instead of tell. Rather than relying on buzzwords, use concrete examples to convey your thoughts. For instance, instead of discussing your fully “integrated” marketing strategy for a product rollout, describe the various elements and how they work together.

13 thoughts on “Most Annoying Buzzwords

  1. Cynthia Fowler

    If I’m tired of writing these words, my clients and clients-to-be (hopefully) have to be numbed out by them, too. So glad I haven’t sent that proposal out the door yet this morning. I’m going back to read it with this list right beside me. I’m also going to take each buzz word and come up with alternative ways to say it directly, simply and buzz-free. Thanks.

  2. andrew

    I think it’s most important just to talk like a normal human. Explain things in terms that are conversational and don’t litter your sentences with jargon.

    That said sometimes you need to use a technical term or industry-shorthand to quickly communicate a point. For instance, “ROI” is useful and so are “24/7” and “free.” They communicate concepts instantly and are nearly universal.

    At the end of the day and moving forward, we need to have the resolve to proactively think outside the box. We need to leverage this culture change in an integrated fashion so we can arrive at the big idea. The model? Go green, go viral, and be unique.


  3. Paul Van Liew

    ” Cloud”. Insanely annoying, and it is actually nothing new, it is what server farms have always been, yet it was the biggest keyword and selling point of 2010, preying on those who have no idea about the technology and believe the sensationalization while ignoring the myriad of security and privacy risks.
    “Web 2.0”, a term that is finally starting to wane a little, but still more irking than cacti needles when it is applied to every bit of UI and app on the web.
    “iPad® Killer”. How can every single device resembling a tablet be an iPad® killer yet never is, and it is also sickening that the iPad has to be the standard of which all must be compared to when so many devices are loaded with more features, capability, and openness, yet marketing dictates it must be an “iPad® Killer” to compete.
    Can’t wait for 2011.

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  5. Caleb

    My least favorite expression is “reaching out” Thank you for reaching out to me, I am reaching out to you because, reach ou to me in six months… I think it is a naseating expression and often used with zero sincerity.

  6. Blair

    How could you include Social Media Expert and not Social Media Guru? If I had a nickel for all the mavens, experts and gurus that handed me their business card in the last year, I’d be a rich man.

  7. Robert Ortiz

    Nice formulaic traffic driver of a post you have here. I came in just wanting to look at the buzzwords. I wish you hadn’t attempted to write anything else. Just the list would have been fine. Its a useless shit list anyway. I’m surprised Passion and Transparency haven’t made your list. What’s the moral? Don’t engage in platitudes? You know—that’s good advice. Perhaps you should have taken it yourself before writing this standard, mailing-in-it brain-turned off, just gonna through some facts on the fire and roast ’em, drop a few names and hope no one can detect sterility excuse for an article.

    I hope you didn’t assign yourself this blog idea. I suggest you try it again. Maybe you can show us example of some stuff that works. Put Negative Nancy to bed. Use that 4 point bulleted list of yours—those are some pretty good guidelines, use them in your redemption post.

    Take some business communication, an email or a marketing brochure, display the copy in a before state. Then edit it. And make black line comments along the way of editing. Explain the rationale. Demonstrate the reason. Literally show us rather than tell us what you mean. Leads us in your workshop, since you’ve got the red pen. Since your blog says “How Design” why don’t you show us how to design proper business communication.

    More annoying than buzzwords, Megan Patrick, are formulaic drivel posts designed simply to drive traffic for hits and deliver C- (at best) copy. So obvious. So boring. Content that lacks entertainment factor and is not educational, like this, tends to make people “lose interest and tune out” except the polite ones who humor you, and the kind ones who cut you apart.

    “I must be cruel, only to be kind.” – William Shakespeare

    1. TNT

      Robert Ortiz: You must be one of those annoying ad-holes who uses these meaningless terms in everyday vernacular. You must be a joy at cocktail parties, discussing paradigm shifts and synergistic ideas. I suggest you do a spell and grammar check next time you want to “leverage your personal brand” (gag).

    2. Anthony

      Before spewing your narcissistic banter, you should sit back for a moment and reflect on what you are saying. Just because you have issue with the article doesn’t mean everyone else does as well. Instead of searching the internet for buzzwords, perhaps you should search for “tact”. Follow that up with “respect”. Finish your day off with “how not to be a jerk”. Have a good day.

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