Just show me, without all the buzzwords

Text: Solveig Hansen, 2016

Kill the buzzwords and start communicating in an authentic way.

I’m a translator. First rule in translation is to avoid word-for-word translation and make the text flow as if it was written in your native language. Marketing translation often means copy-editing to adapt the translated text to the target culture. In the process, clever headlines, word plays and buzzwords might have to be replaced with a descriptive translation rather than an artificial construction. Ideally speaking, that is. Because in real life, washed out buzzwords are often translated literally, resulting in formulations that sound just as awkward as their English counterparts, like “thought leaders” or “brand evangelists.” Or “vendor agnostic” for that matter – what’s wrong with “vendor independent” or “vendor neutral”?

Many big, global companies use country-specific language style guides, sometimes with blacklists of non-recommended terms, including overused words and larger than life adjectives. A style guide makes the job easier both for copywriters and translators and ensures a consistent tone of voice. Microsoft, for instance, has made their style guides public in their Language Portal.

Overused words
Overly use of superlatives is common in American English product descriptions, whereas in other languages a more sober translation is required. Regardless of language, any marketing copy would benefit from avoiding worn-out and meaningless adjectives. After a couple of decades in the translation industry, I’ve had my share of these:

…right out of the box

We get it, your product is great. So why don’t you just show us? As a consumer, I want to know what a product or service can do for me, without having to filter out buzzwords to get to the content. Then I will decide whether I think it’s unique or not.

Equally annoying is the repetition of the company name in every other sentence. Alternate with “we” to make it more reader-friendly.

And why would you “leverage” when you can “use”?

The customer’s “pain points”?

Why do we keep using outdated cliches like these? Maybe because they have been repeated so many times that we have come to accept them as some kind of truth. This is called repetition bias.

“Repetition bias is a cognitive bias in which there is a willingness to believe what we have been told most often and by the greatest number of different of sources.”

We can do better as writers. We should write the way we talk, authentically.

“Remarkable social media content and great sales copy are pretty much the same – plain spoken words designed to focus the needs of the reader, listener or viewer.”
– Brian Clark, Copyblogger

Improve your marketing copy
According to Merriam-Webster, buzzword is:

  • a word or phrase that becomes very popular for a period of time
  • an important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen
  • a voguish word or phrase

“A period of time” is the keyword here. After a while buzzwords are not even buzzwords anymore but rather noise. It’s time to find new ones, or maybe just use plain language, which is the most basic approach to create effective copy, Demian Farnworth at Copyblogger writes in 10 Ways to Write Damn Good Copy. You “simply introduce the product without gimmick or style. It’s a simple presentation of the facts and benefits.”

A couple of other good resources and samples to inspire your copywriting:

In 11 Copywriting Tips: How to Turn Marketing Drivel into Serious Sales Copy, Henneke Duistermaat illustrates bad and good copy. Instead of: “Our world class widgets help you increase email sign-ups,” write: “549,333 websites use our widgets to increase email sign-ups.”

Henneke Duistermaat also wrote 21 Snazzy Copywriting Examples: Get Inspired to Write Your Own Seductive Copy, with samples from around the web.

The 6 Worst B2B Marketing Buzzwords to Avoid in 2016, by Cara Wood for Capterra B2B Marketing Blog. Among the words are “growth hacking” and “snackable content.”

3 Content Marketing Cliches You Should Avoid, according to Neil Patel in a Huffington Post blog post. Number one is to say goodbye to “content is king” and hello to “epic content.”

New buzzwords?
So, which buzzwords will we use in 2017? DMN, a marketing analysis, research and content provider, offers their predictions: Uber-Free Zone, Netflix & Split, UnMoji, Snap-Paps… Or what about these:

Virtual Vacation: When you need a break from virtual reality

Io-Time Out: When your Internet of Things devices cannot or will not communicate with each other

Rude AwAIkening: When spamware infects your voice assistant and you are awoken every morning by ads for weight loss pills

They gave us some inventive suggestions for 2016 as well, like biased algorithms, frictionless design, visual search and scientific serendipity.

Does it really matter?
Language always matters and affects your corporate image. It should be a part of your overall quality profile. After all, you want to convert prospects into clients, right?


Sidebar photo: beeki-thecoffeedrinker/Pixabay.com

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