In every industry, there are words used
that only members of that industry truly
understand. This is the everyday lingo exchanged between employees to describe
ideas, products or procedures. These
words are often referred to as “buzzwords.” While some of these words are
industry-specific, others are used across all
types of businesses.
A survey conducted by The Creative Group
identified that one of the most frequently-used buzzwords (or, in this case, buzzphrase)
is “outside the box.” “The big idea” and “synergy” were other terms found on the overused buzzword list, says Kimberly Walker,
Chicago division director of The Creative
Group, a specialized staffing service providing marketing, advertising, creative and Web
professionals on a project basis.
It is important for professionals to be
cognizant of their use of buzzwords. If used
in moderation, buzzwords can be an effective way to send a meaningful message to
co-workers, colleagues or those in the
same industry, says Walker.
Smart Business spoke with Walker about
the effects of overusing buzzwords and how
to deliver your message effectively.
What are some risks of using buzzwords?
Buzzwords and industry jargon are a
form of shorthand used by people within a
particular company or profession. While
they can make communication more efficient, they also can be confusing, annoying
or seem exclusionary to individuals outside that organization or field.
Buzzwords are called buzzwords
because they are so prevalent. But when
words become overused, they lose their
impact and meaning. People may often try
to display their industry expertise by
using buzzwords. When done incorrectly
or at an inappropriate time, people can
react negatively to buzzwords, especially
if they’re used haphazardly or appear to
What are the potential consequences of overusing buzzwords?
They can be ambiguous, and as a result, the recipients of the message may lose
interest. It is important to take stock of
your audience before using buzzwords or
industry jargon. Even though the terms
may be clear to you, other people must
understand them if you hope to communicate your point effectively.
Regardless of industry, communication is
extremely important in the workplace.
Speaking clearly and using concrete terms
may be more effective in helping you persuade and motivate colleagues or clients.
This ensures that your audience comprehends the message as it was intended.
How can people communicate more effectively?
First, do your homework and make sure
you understand the topic you are discussing.
The more informed you are, the easier it will
be to convey confidence and credibility.
You’ll also be in a stronger position to defend
your ideas should questions arise.
Second, take some time to organize your
thoughts. Tailor your message to the
knowledge level of the audience. Use
straightforward terms, and avoid buzzwords or acronyms unless they’re understood by everyone.
Lastly, get to the point. The goal is to capture your audience’s attention immediately so they will continue listening to
Keep in mind that good communicators
are passionate about what they’re saying.
Test your communication ability by listening to questions and feedback after delivering the message. You should be able to tell
if the message was understood.
How can buzzwords help enhance a message
or be used effectively?
Buzzwords create emphasis by appealing
to a group of people who are familiar with
the word’s meaning. They can provide a
sense of community and help co-workers
or members of a specific industry feel like
they are part of a select group.
Buzzwords may also mystify those who
don’t know their meaning, which can create a sense of intrigue. However, this can
easily backfire into frustration if the word
is used too frequently or never fully
explained in context.
If delivered in the right context, buzzwords may help showcase a person’s
industry expertise. But it’s better to use
industry jargon for this purpose rather than
a trendy buzzword.
How do you introduce new employees to the
buzzwords used in the office?
Buzzwords and industry jargon can actually help new employees become more acclimated to their new company. Once they feel
comfortable enough to start using them,
buzzwords can help new employees feel like
part of the group and more in the know.
Most new employees will pick up on
buzzwords just by listening to them. Some
companies may have company jargon and
acronyms listed on their company intranet
or in a handbook. Usually, however, buzzwords change too frequently to be listed.
KIMBERLY WALKER is the division director of The Creative
Group in Chicago. A division of Robert Half International, The
Creative Group has offices in major markets throughout the U.S.
and Canada, and offers online job search services at www.creativegroup.com. Reach Walker at (312) 616-8200 or