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- We allow misuse of words because we fear correcting others.
- Commonplace words errantly assigned to products lose impact.
- Find out what something really means before marketing with it.
The tech world sure can abuse a catchphrase.
It’s safe to say I’ve heard my share.
I can actually hear them coming during demos, charging at me like a vengeful word train, steaming wildly while I struggle to dislodge my thesaurus from the tracks.
“Robust.” “Interactive.” “Dynamic.”
I manage to escape just in time.
When I really start to question why I haven’t retreated to my Walden yet is when tech stars and change agents so egregiously abuse a term that its root purpose has not only shriveled into the ether of the Internets, but been redefined to such an extent that its use has no heart and no longer carries any meaning.
I don’t expect Cormac McCarthyisms in an email pitch about your new app.
However, an occasional glance at Lynne Truss’ masterwork, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves,” wouldn’t hurt. It’s short and really funny.
Consider this column a plea for everyone to do more to improve the way we talk about technology. Starting with this list of suggested words to eliminate from the vocabulary.
The book everyone is trying to cleverly reference was authored in 2006. It’s almost a decade old. It might as well be on a scroll or stored in an ark. I hear its title heaved at me every time someone wants to overexplain a shift in business direction.
Substitute: “We tried A, it didn’t work, so now we’re trying B.”
2. On the fly
Make it stop. This now arcane expression is used constantly as a euphemism for simply doing something quickly, for example, “This lets us send an email on the fly.” Really? How else would you send one? Have I been doing email wrong since 1995? Is there some sort of convoluted process for sending an email to prospects? Or following up with someone?
Substitute: right away; quickly; immediately.
If given the choice of being sprayed in the eyes with bear Mace or sitting through a PowerPoint presentation, I’d only ask for a moment to remove my contacts.
However, I would gladly watch someone point and click from slide to slide until their Windows 8 Gateway blue-screens their bar graphs into oblivion before tolerating their use of “deck” to describe what I’m sitting through.
Substitute: presentation; slideshow; slides.
No. Please, no.
Substitute: none (thankfully).
This falls in the “trying too hard to be hip” chapter of this compendium, somewhere adjacent to “deck.” Just build your business and be proud that you’re developing a new way to solve an old problem.
You’re not really disrupting anything. You’re merely introducing something your particular branch of industry may not have seen before. Stop assigning undue weight to your software. You’re not raising the Hunley.
Substitute: redefine; shake up; new approach.
6. The Uber of …
Everybody wants to be the “Uber of” something today. The Uber of real estate. The Uber of website building.
Hats off to Uber, because that’s the only company I know that can say it’s the Uber of anything.
Substitute: Hire marketing staff.
Enough hacking, please. This word works only when someone is describing a shortcut of some kind, or what happened to Target.
This work is dropped every time someone thinks they’re making something new. “We’re going to hack the real estate leads process.” “This software totally hacks how forms are built. You won’t believe feature No. 6!”
Substitute: change; streamline; make more efficient.
You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Substitute: new; improved; innovative.
9. Real time
Speaking of not knowing, I don’t know what “real time” means. Am I typing this in real time? When is real time? Is this real life?
Not unlike “on the fly,” I hear this nugget anytime someone is describing how a tool does something right away. “This is real-time reporting.” As opposed to false-time? When else would I get the report, three days from now? In due time?
Substitute: live; up-to-date.
What abused and beaten-down terms bug you? Am I guilty of abusing any phrases you hold dear?
Share away. Or email me, Craig Rowe.