Recently I’ve electronically clipped several articles on ridiculous phrases and corporate buzzwords – as well as some useful tips – that can help us eliminate these crutches to vastly improve our presentations, emails and conversations.
Travis Bradberry’s “Please Stop Saying These 25 Ridiculous Phrases at Work,” published July 28 in Forbes, awarded “at the end of the day” its top honor for ridiculousness. Bradberry included “hit the ground running,” “low-hanging fruit,” “it’s on my radar” and “think outside the box” as other ineffective catchphrases to avoid.
Be Original. Be Creative.
Original approaches and proper wording are as important as ever to getting your message across to the right people in both conversations and writing. Such precision requires concentration and creativity (as well as a good thesaurus) but yields the most immediate and positive results.
In “14 Dos and Don’ts That Can Improve How You Communicate Via Email,” a recent LinkedIn post by PRSA’s David Grossman, he noted the best ways to engage your audience, the words that most effectively communicate, and warns that a poorly written message is often ignored.
He emphasized that emails live forever and can be forwarded, shared, copied and subpoenaed. In fact, that’s true of any communication these days because of the ubiquitous cell phone and its ability to record everything. As a general rule, Grossman advises; don’t share anything in an email that you wouldn’t want to see on a Jumbotron in Times Square. I would expand that advice to everything you say and do, either in print or in person.
Why Words are Important
It’s not enough to have a brilliant idea. If you can’t communicate it effectively, it won’t fly. Author and writing expert Melissa Donovan notes in writingforward.com that honing grammar, spelling and punctuation skills should be an ongoing process for communicators. “The basic tools of your trade are words, sentences and paragraphs,” she writes. “If you don’t understand the basic rules, your writing will be in big trouble. Writers who can’t be bothered to learn the rules of grammar tend to produce sloppy work and weak prose.”
Donovan says that effective communication depends on knowing nouns from verbs and predicates from prepositions, and understanding tense and agreement.
Precise language is important in the workplace, too. Some corporate terms – like “change agent,” “gatekeeper,” “cascade” and “silo” – may be commonly used, but are vague, misleading and even dehumanizing, notes Laura Hale Brockway in an August 26 PR News article.
Better Ways to Communicate
How can we harness the right words to reach our target audiences most effectively to motivate positive change?
- First, it’s important to employ the right venue for the message. You wouldn’t send something requiring an urgent response via email, because your audience may not check or respond immediately.
- Second, vital information that isn’t succinct and direct runs the risk of being ignored or misinterpreted. That means using relevant words and avoiding repetition, and using as few words as possible for the greatest impact.
- Avoid sloppiness. If you’re speaking, eliminate crutch words. If you’re writing, make sure there are no typos, repeated phrases or extra phrases that muddy your message.
Lastly and perhaps most important, employ communicators’ best practices. Refresh yourself and get a new perspective. Force yourself to refer often to resources and research so you are sure to include the very latest information from the best sources. In doing so, you will establish yourself as not only an excellent communicator, but a team leader and an original thinker.