Are You “Utilizing” Useless Buzzwords?

Yes, my writing skills are stronger than my PowerPoint drawing skills. But you can tell it's a bee, right? Right.

Yes, my writing skills are stronger than my PowerPoint drawing skills. But you can tell it's a bee, right? Right.

“Avoid fancy words.” This command from Strunk and White is excellent writing advice whether you’re publishing a novel or sending an email. They admonish, “Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.”

But somehow we all end up choosing longer, showier words to say something that could be said simply—especially in business writing. Here are just a few of the worst offenders:

BuzzwordsBetter Words
actionable (adj.)useful
cutting-edge (adj.)advanced
implement (v.)do
incentivize (v.)encourage
innovative (adj.)new
facilitate (v.)ease
groundbreaking (adj.)fresh
monetize (v.)profit from
paradigm (n.)model, pattern
solutioneer (n.)problem-solver
solutioneer (v.)solve
synergy (n.)teamwork
takeaway (n.)lesson
utilize (v.)use

Open one of your business documents and do a search for each of these words. Are you using buzzwords without noticing? Believe me; it’s easy to do.

Now try replacing your buzzwords with the stronger words in the right-hand column. You’ll be pleased with how much simpler and snappier your writing becomes.

Buzzwords will never go away entirely. But the less you use them, the better your business communication will be. So whenever you start reaching for one of these words, remember this post, and repeat the mantra: “Avoid fancy words.”