Friday, December 18, 2009

Top 10 Phrases to Eliminate From Business

Top 10 Phrases to Eliminate From Business

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

As a writer, I don't like trite phrases, marketing jargon, or clichés. So I was pleased to see a piece by Frances Cole Jones on talking about her 10 worst business sayings.

In my work as a marketer, I hear a lot of these phrases a lot, and I really want to see these eliminated from business use completely. I love Jones' list, and want to do my best to make sure her choices are struck from daily usage.

I'm glad she's taking this stance against appalling language. I'm definitely on her side on this, because she has managed to pick most of my pet peeves.

Apparently the language "crisis" is becoming "urgent" to language mavens like Jones. At least it would be, if she didn't say "urgent" and "its frequent companion 'crisis'" need to be eliminated.
I am asked a lot of questions about blogging and social media. People who want to start doing this always ask if they can "pick my brain." As if my knowledge is some intellectual booger that can be harvested with a probing finger. I don't mind it, usually only asking for lunch or a latte in return, but still, keep your fingers out of my skull.

The problem is that I'm giving this advice for free, even though consultants can charge $100 an hour for the same advice. I have found that if someone pays for the information, they make sure to use it. But if they get it for free, they don't follow the recommendations. That's because they don't have any skin in the game, any "sweat equity." And now they really can't, since Jones wants to get rid of that phrase too.

Real sweat equity is the labor home owners put into their own house, rather than hiring someone else to do it. In business, sweat equity is when someone works for free, since the company can't afford to pay them. But when they do have money, they contractor will get sweat equity.

Double secret promise you will!

And after the sweat equity rip-off — I mean, offer — is made, the "ball is in your court" as to whether you want to accept it. Except Jones is taking her ball and going home. She says we use this phrase "to let others know you've reached your limit with regard to handling a situation." In other words, when I've done all I can, the ball is in your court and it's up to you to take the next step. I can't do anything until you return the ball.

That's when I gather up all my options and "throw them against the wall (to) see what sticks." Although it refers to taking a bunch of ideas and seeing which ones are any good, I have actually used this technique in determining the doneness of pasta ever since college.

Just take a noodle from the boiling water, and throw it against the wall. If it sticks, it's done. If it doesn't, your wife will be angry with you. It actually works pretty well, just so long as you remember to clean the noodles from behind the stove.

Still, Jones, and my wife, won't let me use the phrase, or the technique, anymore.

But "I, personally," still like the term, even if I can't go flinging spaghetti all over the kitchen. Except Jones, personally, hates "I, personally," so I have to get rid of that too. It's redundant. After all, if I'm talking about my opinion, it's already personal, so there's no reason to use it again.

It's like the phrase "really unique," "quite unique," or "truly unique," all of which have been given the chop. Things are unique, or they're not. Unique means "one of a kind." Things can't be "really one of a kind." That's truly redundant.

We just need to eliminate this kind of speech from our everyday usage. It's becoming tedious and clichéd. It's ruining our language. We used to be a fairly literate, well-spoken society, but we seem to be killing it slowly with these buzzwords. I'd like to think we could eliminate the problem altogether, but our "past history" tells me otherwise. And now Frances Cole Jones says we can't say "past history" either, because it's also redundant.

But I don't see what's so hard about fixing our language. It's just a matter of taking the really annoying corporate buzzword jargon that people use to sound cool (it's not working, by the way), and eliminating it from daily use.

I mean, it's not "rocket science. . ."

Uh oh.

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  1. The language crisis, at least for English-speaking people, is worse than just using cliches. The cliches sneak into our vernacular, mostly because they are handy phrases that convey a certain meaning that has become familiar to everyone; and yes, that leads to over-use. The reality is that grammar, punctuation, syntax, in essence the technical side of lanuage, are disappearing rapidly. I'm not certain if people are just lazy or if so many people really don't know what is correct. If its the latter, that is truly stunning. The folks are, most probably, products of the American education system. Is this what we're turning out these days? That's frightening. Would you want someone who doesn't know the difference between there, their, and they're working on your car or plane or space shuttle? I surely wouldn't! If language loses precision, soon everything else will too. With everything reduced to the lowest common denominator, we'll turn into a nation of morons. That is just too scary to think about. We all need standards and goals and knowing how to speak and write your own language seems like it should be right up at the top of the list.

  2. @Mellodee, you make an interesting point (although to be fair, I'm more concerned that the guy working on my car knows the difference between standard and metric wrenches than there, their, and they're. ;-) )

    However, I agree that the educational system is a biiiig part of the problem. Like you said, we reduce things to the lowest common denominator. We let people skate by with a less-than-acceptable grasp on some basic concepts, like math and English.

  3. I knew it was a bad example, but I don't know about anything mechanical! So I couldn't think of anything more appropriate, at least not quickly. Darn, I was hoping you wouldn't notice! :-)


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