By now you may have come across Weird Al Yankovic’s “Word Crimes,” a music video that parodies last summer’s hit song “Blurred Lines.” The video takes a humorous approach to pointing out some of the most common language mistakes that people make.
To honor Weird Al’s video and do our part to help improve everyone’s use of language, we’d like to share our own list of word crimes — the words or phrases that you should avoid whenever you write. In particular, our list includes:
- Buzzwords: Terms and phrases that have become so popular that your eyes glaze over when you see them and they lose all impact. Examples that spring to mind include “thought leadership” and “robust” (a perennial favorite word to hate).
- Jargon: Industry-speak that people may have heard of but not everyone understands, such as “accountability management” and the “cloud.”
- Clichés: Expressions like “get on the same page” and “bells and whistles” that have become trite through overuse. (Buzzwords of old.)
- Empty phrases: These include filler expressions such as “at the end of the day” and “when it comes to” that merely add bulk to your sentences.
- Superlatives: Often exaggerations, words like “top” or “best” should be avoided. It’s better to substantiate the claim by providing evidence and avoid saying the word at all.
- Weasel words: Equivocations such as “sort of” and “really” that serve only to dilute your meaning.
Here’s our list of words to avoid. Are any of them on your list, too?
|a little bit||ground breaking||radar screen|
|accountability management||guru||reach out|
|action items||heads up||really|
|actually||hit the ground running||real-time|
|apples to apples||ideation||return on
|at the end of the day||incentivize||revolutionary|
|at this point in time||incremental||robust|
|award winning||industry standard||ROI|
|bait and switch||innovation||savvy|
|bells and whistles||integrate||sea change|
|best in class||journey||secret sauce|
|best of breed||just||silo|
|best practices||kind of||six sigma|
|brain dump||leading||social media|
|client-centric||low-hanging fruit||sort of|
|content provider||market leading||stack|
|critical path||methodology||state of the art|
|democratize||net net||take it offline|
|disruption||never been done||tasked|
|dynamic||next generation||think outside the
|easy to use||next-gen||thought leadership|
|ecosystem||off the shelf||thrilled|
|elevator pitch||on the runway||top|
|empower||one of a kind||top of mind|
|enterprise class||optics||touch base|
|epic||out of the box||transparency|
|exclusive||out of the loop||turnkey|
|exit strategy||outside the box||ubiquitous|
|extraordinary||paradigm shift||user friendly|
|face time||path forward||value proposition|
|frictionless||pivot||voice of the
|gap analysis||premier||when it comes to|
|generation X||price point||win-win|
|get on the same page||proactive||wish list|
|going forward||productize||world class|
|great||pull the trigger|
Thanks, Weird Al, for beating the drum about why language matters. If you’ve got any of your own word crimes to share, please do so in the comments section below.