Unsuck the marketing-speak

14 Sep

What did we all do with ourselves before the expression moving forward entered the popular lexicon?

I have to believe we simply halted in mid-sentence and allowed a few beats of the drum to sound before carrying on, alerting all to the need for a suitable catchphrase to fill the gaping hole.

So complete is moving forward’s victory that it’s virtually impossible to have a discussion about progress without hearing it. It is an instant and tiresome cliché, a business buzzword that was dead on arrival.

Of course it has company: Award-winning, state-of-the-art, next generation, best-in-class, user friendly, mission critical, win-win, come to Jesus, cradle to grave, soup to nuts, outside the box, hit the ground running, low hanging fruit…

If you’re like me and want to rid your mouth and ears of these mindless marketing mantras, spend a few quiet moments at Unsuckit.com

Here, in a supportive and empathetic environment, you will find satisfying words and phrases to replace the buzzwords.

At the end of the day (Unsucked: in conclusion), we’d all be better off to get unsucked. We simply don’t trust people who speak like marketers!


10 Responses to “Unsuck the marketing-speak”

  1. barrysbook September 14, 2010 at 5:55 am #

    I got news for ya Doug, as I PROCESS and TRACK this idea… we ARE marketing monkeys! 🙂 I say we show ’em and transmogrify back to the beauty of King James English.

  2. Louisa van Lith September 14, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    Well Doug, it seems you marketers have been carrying on about word usage for some time. For 35 years Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan has released the List of Words Banished from the Queen’s Enlgish for Mis-use, Overuse and General Uselessness. They have received tens of thousands of nominations from readers the world over and it all started as …you guessed it…a marketing ploy.

    Former LSSU PR Director Bill Rabe created the list of banished words at a New Year’s Eve party in 1975 and released it to the media on New Year’s Day. He wanted to take advantage of a slow news day. His unique ideas garnered media attention for a small and new university. It has been going strong ever since.

    You can check out the list at http://www.lssu.edu/banished/.


  3. Yukari September 14, 2010 at 6:55 am #

    I love this. Once I read somewhere the most overused phrase is “At the end of the day”…drives me crazy every time I hear it.

  4. dougbrowncreative September 14, 2010 at 7:20 am #

    > Louisa, how great to have a comment from you on our blog. And thanks for the list from Bill Rabe, a timely contribution to the verbal bunfight. Marketers truly are evil.

    > Yukari, it was the most irritating expression I think, which your reaction bears out. I’m pretty sure a Brit came up with it, but not our Tom.

    > Barry get your damn hands off my bananas.

  5. Reg September 14, 2010 at 8:44 am #

    Okay, so I’ll take the contrarian view — I like colourful and/or methaphorical language, IF it gives at least as good or hopefully better meaning to a message. I reviewed some of the alphabetized vocabulary on unsuckit.com and found a lot of true winners that are, yes, overused and annoying. However, I found a lot of them to be quite interesting turns of phrase that can enrich our language or way of speaking. True, some of them are infuriatingly overused and, in so doing, rendered less effective (and I don’t think they’re limited to just marketers — maybe we spawned them (???), but working in the business community in multiple contexts and departments, I hear these phrases uttered from all sorts of different mouths).

    Is plain language really what we’re pining for here? I would think that the writers and creative minds that read this blog would be feistily defending creative expression, which I think certainly includes the use of metaphors and other different turns of phrase. Again, I reiterate: overuse or abuse of ANY word or phrase is irritating, so I don’t miss the point of Doug’s message, or that of unsuckit.com’s, but isn’t language just a little bit richer for having options and other ways of expressing an idea or a point?

    Do I like “at the end of the day” as a concluding statement, as Yukari rightfully points out? Nope. But when someone says, “In conclusion” (the suggested alternative), either written or verbally, I can’t help but feel like I’m listening to a high school book report or the like, as it feels too formal or stuffy. I think it behooves us all to come up with other ways of expressing things we want to say, rather than relying on overly cliched expressions.

    I’d like to believe we’re all talking on two sides of the same coin, and that I’m preaching to the choir, or really just on the same page with you all, but either way, I just couldn’t keep my trap shut.

    Hope you all have a great, er, end of the day – literally.

  6. whiterose52 September 14, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language is pretty much the final word on how to write for any application. I read it years ago in University and I still wish more people could read it because it is still applicable.
    Cutting to the chase, here are his final rules to live by but, of course, they are just the surface and #6 sums it all up — simply put, don’t write badly…

    1 Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

    2 Never us a long word where a short one will do.

    3 If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

    4 Never use the passive where you can use the active.

    5 Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

    6 Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

    (http://bit.ly/8YrhSH for the full version…make a cup of tea and sit down to read this, it really will change how you look at writing)

  7. dougbrowncreative September 14, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    > I have to agree with you Reg that rich language is more satisfying. Some of the hated marketing-speak is actually quite creative. When the rubber hits the road, etc. It’s just that overuse robs them of the colour. When everyone uses the same expression it ceases to be interesting.

    On the plain language front, I think business should be about clarity, and simple language gets you there quicker and more effectively. Like journalism I suppose. Not flashy, just accurate. We’re not here to entertain but to be understood.

    As always, thanks for a thought provoking response and an open trap!

    > And Moe, thanks for that documentation. Now I have a place to go when I need to feel good about the lack of creativity in my writing.

  8. Maureen Blaseckie September 15, 2010 at 9:14 am #

    you’re very creative, Doug. I like to trot out Mr. Orwell because I think his philosophy on writing still works. Unfortunately many of my superiors at a certain gov’t ministry where I once worked as a correspondence proof reader for the Deputy and Minister, didn’t agree re jargon. If you think there’s a problem with overuse of cliche in marketing…oy….

    Anyway, not a word of criticism intended and nothing but admiration for your work…

  9. dougbrowncreative September 15, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    Sure wasn’t taken as criticism Moe! Though there’s nothing wrong with that…it was more of a reference back to Reg’s comment before yours about how rich language can sometimes get in the way of clarity.

    Government Ministry + jargon-free writing. Hmm. I’m feeling pessimistic about that pre-arranged marriage.

  10. Lindsey Maloney September 15, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    Thank you Doug. I am so grateful this site has come into my life. It is more of an educational experience for me, and I am getting a kick out of it. Phrases such as, “Low-Hanging Fruit,” meaning, “easy goal,” or “starting to gel,” which means, “working well together.” They crack me up. Its given me new material, and I’m bringing ‘starting to gel’ back for sure.

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