Buzzwords. Public relations jargon. Robust, worldwide, revolutionizing time-to-market jargon that the industry can’t seem to avoid and leverages us in the trade press uniquely crazy.
These are the words that make us audibly groan with pain when we see them. These are the words that we joke about around the office and in meetings. These are the words we forbid each other to say when socializing with one another on weekends. If we all worked in Texas Instruments’ marketing department, we would call these words our “key care-abouts.”
These are the words that jack up our time-to-copy and must be swiftly deleted. We writers hate these things. And it’s a robust, industry-leading hate, to be sure.
Thus, with the help of my colleagues, I have developed the Dirty Jargon List, á la George Carlin, comprising words and phrases that should be avoided. We hope this first-to-market jargon list will underscore Electronic News’ commitment to industry-leading copy. At the top of our jargon list is the tired, overworked “solution.” It seems products are no longer just that, but solutions. Everything is a solution, and the people that make solutions are, you guessed it, “solutions providers.” As one Electronic News writer pointed out, this is essentially meaningless. If someone asks me the time and I tell them, I’m a solution provider. Perish the thought.
Put “robust” in front of the word solution, and our first instinct is to dive for the paper shredder or the recycling bin.
The next-least popular cliché among editors is “world,” as in world-class or world’s first and the ever popular worldwide leader. Of course, “global” fits in this category as well. When I see “world-class solution,” my first impulse is to reach for a tactical nuclear weapon.
Other words on the jargon list include “unique,” “leverage” and “leading.” And then there are the hackneyed phrases, such as best-of-breed, state-of-the-art, bleeding-edge, cutting-edge, trailing-edge, priced competitively, superior performance and the new cliché on the block, orders of magnitude. Let us not forget the canned quotes that begin “we are pleased” or “we are excited,” or the increasingly prevalent “with the rapid development of.” Then there is the-ahem-solution that “underscores the company’s commitment to the industry.”
Leverage is my personal favorite. Everyone is leveraging something these days, usually solutions. It makes one ponder how the first semiconductor companies ever got started. What did they have to leverage? Vacuum tubes? Stone knives and bear skins? Rocks?
Of course, I don’t expect marketing or public-relations people in the industry to read this and experience an epiphany. More likely, they will e-mail me and say: “Gosh, Jeff, you’re right. Our company will position itself to become the industry leader in cliché-less copy! Our press releases will provide a robust jargon solution that will revolutionize your time-to-copy.”
No, a solution won’t be leveraged easily. It dates back to the dawn of civilization. Here’s an example of a press release from the archaeological record:
“The world’s leading clay tablet company, Babylonian Tablet Corp., is pleased and excited to announce today that it is launching ClayMud®, a new world-class tablet technology. Leveraging the company’s experience in mud-brick technology, Babylonian Tablet has developed a new industry-leading state-of-the art solution that will revolutionize cuneiform writing. By mixing clay from the Euphrates River with mud from the Tigris, Babylonian Tablet has developed a uniquely robust offering for royal scribes. ClayMud® is softer than previous generations of tablet clays, allowing scribes to work more efficiently, while drying in half the time of competing clays, improving royal time-to-market by orders of magnitude lower.”
And here’s how it appeared in Cuneiform Weekly:
“Mud-brick and clay tablet maker Babylonian Tablet Corp. (BTC) recently rolled out its new ClayMud material for cuneiform tablets. ClayMud utilizes Euphrates River Clay mixed with Tigris River mud to produce tablet material that BTC claims is softer than previous-generation materials but cuts drying time in half.”
So much for leveraging a robust solution.
Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a news story written by me that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. It’s former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge). You can still see a copy of this story at EDN.