It’s time for a little rant. Words are powerful, until they start to become abused, by being lazily thrown in parrot-like as part of loathsome marketingspeak and managementspeak. Here are the current Top Ten words and phrases that annoy the hell out of me.

1: Game-changing

Here’s how to change the game of cricket: replace the cricket ball with a shuttlecock. It certainly changes the game, but it doesn’t make it a better game, or one that’s going to be enjoyed by players or spectators. There are very few things that really change the game. It’s more realistic to focus on improving your game, or to realise you’re playing a different game.

2: Groundbreaking

In similar vein to game-changing, this has become a cliche, and is lazily and incorrectly used as a synonym for ‘new’. Are you digging the foundations for a grand new building that defies architectural precedent? Are you trying to suggest that digging a hole is something amazing? It’s not, so shut up.

3: Engagement

Did you give her a ring and ask her to marry you? Then it’s not engagement. This word is especially popular when talking about social media: “this offers the opportunity for engagement with customers”. It’s also combined very often with another choice phrase, so that you end up “driving engagement”.

4: Thinking outside the box

Dear God, I thought this was gone, but it’s still there, and keeps reappearing like a stubborn case of athlete’s foot. What, and where is, the box you are talking about? Use this phrase, and I’ll assume you are referring to the tiny little cardboard receptacle in which your feeble brain is rattling around. Forget the box.

5: Go viral

It’s not 2005 any more kids. So if you still think you can create content designed to “go viral” then I think it’s time for you to open an envelope containing your P45 or pink slip. This phrase was dead almost before it first started to be abused in Powerpoint and chocolate biscuit sessions.

6: Driving / Driver

“This is driving up engagement across social channels.” No it’s not. “This will act as the driver for this interaction” No it won’t. Do you think you’re like Fernando Alonso? Or are you a chauffeur? No, gracias.

7: Unique

A cliche again, and the worst type, because usually, this now means the opposite. “A unique opportunity” is best translated as “the same opportunity again, perhaps in a thin disguise”. Avoid.

8: Impact

This is an incredibly flexible little word, and is used as a verb and a noun. “This will impact impressions favourably.” And “This had a significant impact”. It’s such a nice satisfying sounding word, but it’s simply abused too often. Impact describes a collision, or the effect of one thing on another. Use affect or effect, and people will stop tuning out, because they might just understand what the hell you’re rabbiting on about. This word has become jargon.

9: Front-of-mind

The human brain does not work like a conveyor belt, and even brain surgeons admit they know only a small fraction of what there is to learn about the workings of the human brain, so this phrase is entirely ridiculous. Quite aside from anything else, assuming that people have even more than a passing interest in your products or services is highly delusional.

10: Implementation

Just shut up. This means ‘doing stuff’ or putting something into effect. “The key stage will be in effectively implementing this strategy.” Ugh. I often hear the gleeful substitution of ‘execution’ for this word, which is just as feeble-minded. “We need to execute on this plan”. Nah. You need to fire the next person who uses that phrase.

11: What about you?

What words or phrases do you have to add to this list? I look forward to hearing your gems…

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