For those who are tasked with communicating complex ideas in business, there’s a tendency to add filler words to make the subject matter seem more important.
We talk about “business processes” and “holistic solutions” because we want the reader to be impressed and to respect what we are trying to say. This desire to make our writing sound more professional often has the opposite effect, however. Using words that have worn out their welcome means we bore the reader. They tend to skip over the overused words like “process” and we fail to get our point across.
My suggestion is to jettison these words in your emails, business documents, and conversations.
The word “synergistic” is a buzzword that has lost all of its buzz. It means “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects,” which is quite a mouthful. The truth is, if you do use the word too often, people will tend to question your ability to communicate without using business-speak and tune out what you say.
I know most of us are practicing for something in life. Maybe it’s a farewell speech or a job at the circus. In business, the word “practices” doesn’t seem to have anything to do with practicing. Technically, it means “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it,” which sounds pretty good on paper. In reality, it’s a word that’s too easy to gloss over and dismiss.
When anyone says the word “processes” in a meeting, I start wondering if the goal is to communicate with me or to impress me with a business term. Even worse is when someone adds the word “business” in front of it, as if that really helps. Sure, there’s a lot of work to do, and there has to be structure. Let’s stop calling this structured work a “process” and replace it with “steps” or something that’s less perfunctory.
Over the years, the word “holistic” has lost its intended purpose. It means that parts of something add up to a cohesive whole, and it’s always helpful to see how things work together. In the end, we do want a “holistic” answer. The problem is that “holistic” has become a nothing word. It’s too easy to skip over for the actual details—e.g., one of the actual pieces that need to be added together to make the whole.
Speaking of holistic “solutions,” let’s ditch that word from our business communication as well. It doesn’t seem to carry any weight anymore in business communication. Using the word “solution” is not always that helpful. People tend to skip over it. A better approach is to state why the product or service meets a need.
The main problem with the “endeavor” is that it has become yet another throwaway word. Someone might say “the company will endeavor to pay everyone on time” and the first reaction of the employees is to question why you are trying to sound so profound. This isn’t the 19th century. At one point, “endeavor” carried some weight—it meant you were going to try really hard. Now it’s just filler.
The boss decides to send out an email to the entire company, explaining a new policy about using office supplies. She says taking supplies from the office cabinet is “tantamount” to stealing. Most of us won’t bother looking up the correct definition on Google. We’ll just tune it out because it sounds too superficial and ornate.
I’ve used the word “offerings” way too many times in my own business writing, and it’s time to stop. The problem is that it’s another word people just subconsciously skip over as they read. You might have some amazing business “offerings” for customers, but it’s better to just explain what they are and let them speak for themselves.
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