Do Buzz Words Need to Buzz Off?

Aug 28, 2014


By Lyndsey Hall

Buzz words. The Marmite of business vocabulary: you either love them or hate them. Between “blue sky thinking”, “drilling down” and “transitioning”, when you’re new to the working world, it can be hard to decipher just what everyone is talking about. Starting a new job can be like learning a new language, and can often lead to what translators call ‘code-switching’ – accidentally using your new vocabulary in everyday speech. (Ever asked a friend for some “Face-Time”, and didn’t mean on your iPhone?)

Business jargon has become so ingrained that it can seem like the only way to be taken seriously at work is to join in. But, according to research, the newest generation of workers don’t appreciate the lingo. Millennials want to cut the biz babble; both as employees, and consumers. You could say they would prefer to “take it offline” and create a “new paradigm”…

According to William Lutz, author of Doublespeak and Doublespeak Defined, “jargon has polluted the public vocabulary with phrases, words and usages of words designed to obscure the meaning of plain English”. In sales and marketing, it stems from the traditional desire to make your product or service sound more technical, more essential and more unique than it probably is, in order to create demand.

But nowadays, consumers are more clued-up about your offerings than they used to be; thanks to the internet. Google a problem and, instead of pages of businesses and service providers who can do it for you, you’ll get 3 YouTube demonstrations, 7 Blog posts and 15 Forums about how to fix it yourself for free, or at least cheaply. Talking a customer round in circles trying to convince them that you’re the only person who can handle a job of such complexity, for a princely sum of course, whilst Barry’s Fix It Blog explains in plain English how to resolve the issue in 20 minutes with just a toilet roll holder and some sticky back plastic; who do you think the customer is going to listen to? There will always be those who prefer to pay a professional, or who simply don’t have the time (or inclination) for DIY, but Millennials are not those people. As we mentioned previously, Millennials are a generation of scrimpers and savers: they are stingy enough to try the do it yourself version, and savvy enough to make it work.

In today’s fast-paced, digital world, “transparency” is key: customers want to know exactly what you offer, how it benefits them, and increasingly, whether it is environmentally-friendly/green/organic/sustainable/fair trade. Social Media has made it easier than ever to tap into public opinion and access reviews of products and companies; in fact, you’re more likely to get a response from complaining on Twitter than emailing the company’s complaints department nowadays. Unfortunately for businesses, this means that millions of people can see every comment, bad and good, that is made about your product or service; as well as how you respond. With only 140 characters to play with, it is essential that you keep your company message clear and concise.

Back in 2006, to mark its 15th anniversary, Investors in People undertook a study which revealed that 69% of employees would prefer to ditch Business Speak completely. However, 27% said that its use was on the rise, particularly in larger corporations, and 48% said that they sometimes used it themselves without thinking. Eight years on, we are still struggling to wade through the mud of corporate jargon, but could it be time for buzz words to buzz off?


Which buzz words do you love/hate? Do you find yourself using them when talking to your friends and family? Maybe you love having a second language that you only use at work; it certainly lends the office a certain “members only club” feel! Let us know your opinion on business babble in the Comments.



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