Committing Word Crime

Nov 10, 2010
By Vanessa Horwell

From MediaPost

Perhaps it’s a little early for the annual Best Of/Worst Of lists, or a look back over the year just squandered. But why wait until December or even January to protest the overuse and abuse of words whose meanings have been diluted and diffused with every re-churned blog post, hash tag, social media release or hyperbole-laden marketing/PR piece?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good metaphor as much as the next writer, but can we push the envelope just a bit farther? Yes, it seems we can and so I would like to propose a collaborative effort with MediaPost readers to create an extensive list of the most meaningless words of 2010.

Following is my “starter-kit” of most meaningless word usage this year – your comments and additions are welcomed.

1. Leading
Add “thought leader” into this mix. Firstly, who decides this? Is there a contest? And who is on the panel? At least “4 out of five dentists” leaves much room for discourse. Until there are legal ramifications for falsely claiming “leader,” it is quite meaningless and nobody is fooled (for long).

I propose to replace this with thought-trailers; those who pick up the crumbs of the thought-leaders and do something useful with them. I also call it the “Hansel and Gretel method of creativity.”

2. Social media
Although it’s a useful “platform” (see #7) can we please stop talking about it now? Even my 87-year-old granny in Bulgaria has a profile, so cut it out. Now, show me the companies that are managing their social media presence in a meaningful, measurable and profound way, then we’ll talk. In the words of my hero Anthony Bourdain, “Social Media This!”

Which brings us to …

3. Strategic
Whose meaning is generally not stretched. Its usage does adhere to the literal definition, but like solution, it has meandered into the buzzword arena and through sheer overuse fails to instill confidence. To a word-weary customer, it could well flip on the trickery switch. Use sparingly.

4. Cutting-edge
Everything is cutting-edge, stop insulting our intelligence.

5. Offline
Simply put, this means “in reality.” This becomes confusing to those of us who spend so much time here online (where the really interesting things happen.) The other day I had the pleasure of being driven as opposed to driving, and so could enjoy the scenery. Gazing out the window, I marveled at how three — dimensional the clouds looked – until the driver kindly pointed out that they appeared that way because they actually were three dimensional — in reality. I should be driven more often, it’s enlightening.

6. Apps
More lazy nomenclature. MIS-apps? Per-apps? …Apples? What’s 3 more syllables in the great scheme of things? Find the time folks, find the time.

7. Platform
I have been struggling to read about anything new this year that isn’t a platform, as in XZY is the only patented and innovative end-to-end XYZ platform for [insert industry here]. And here’s me thinking that a platform is the raised area between or alongside the tracks of a railroad station, from which the cars of the train are entered. The 2011 train on Platform #1 will soon be departing, so can every company using platform as part of their USP please be on it?

8. Benchmarking
Lunchroom vandalism springs to mind, but again this, like leading, should require qualification and documentation of some sort. Or am I being a stickler?

9. Next Frontier, Next Generation
Is it no longer Australia then? More grandiosity, generally — but this does not diminish the thrill of actual product advancement. Do I wish to experience the next frontier in skincare on my face? Not really. For me, “New and Improved,” tried and true, if a bit trite, can do the job. And when referring to next generation, would this be the unborn, the untested or uninvented?

And a few phrases, just for good measure…

At the end of the day,
Honestly speaking,
No offense, but …
Web 2.0 (again)

Which words have you relegated to the most meaningless pile this year? Submit your suggestions in the comments section below and be part of my updated “Bull**** Bingo à la 2011 version.” It will be out just in time for the first round of boring meetings in the New Year.

About Vanessa Horwell

Vanessa Horwell is Chief Visibility Officer at ThinkInk. She works with companies in the U.S., UK and Europe to improve their visibility through strategic public relations and new media channels. Reach her at



Contact Us

Sign up for our insights on the convergence of business and PR