Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In Response to Word Crimes

I received a number of responses to my Committing Word Crime post last week, and not all of them in agreement with me.

My columns are designed to do just that – start dialogue and debate - and confirm why it’s so important not just to provide “how-to” advice, but to delve into deeper issues -- like word usage – for us to think about, and think about how this impacts our (PR) industry and what we do.

This particular column came about from frustration and tiredness. I was reading press release and after press release all using similar “positioning” and opening lines… “XYZ, the leader in XYZ, announces it breakthrough leading-edge innovation platform/solution that will transform XXX.” At the same time, a number of clients insisted upon using hyperbole-laden phrases in their messaging and I just threw my hands up. I thought to myself “every company is now a leader, every company displays thought-leadership. Every company is the first to, blah blah, blah. Where’s the creativity, or differentiation folks?”

It is hard to keep coming up with new insights, and that’s exactly why we are seeing the same words used the way they are. It’s also a reflection of the overwhelming speed of our communication cycle and the volume of content that is being created.

What words can we use that will make the most impact? How can we get through all of this content and information?

It is a struggle, to be sure.

But in this discussion, there’s no right or wrong answer. I do believe, however, that through sheer overuse the value of certain words and phrases becomes diminished. Perhaps you also cringe at the words paradigm, synergistic, and out-of-the-box, that were some of 2004-2005’s buzzwords?

The same thing happens each year, and so most likely we’ll revert to the words we used in 1998-1999 next year, as they’ll feel sort of new again?

As one writer said, "language is to be used." I agree. It just should be used creatively and meaningfully.

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