New List of Gobbledygook Words: Are You an Offender?

New List of Gobbledygook Words: Are You an Offender?
Michele Linn - Thu Apr 09, 2009 @ 01:28AM
Comments: 33

Innovations GraphicOne of the things that drives me crazy about a lot B2B marketing is all of the "nothing" words that are used. You know, those words that are totally overused to the point that they don't mean anything.

In fact, Kate had a great example of this in her post yesterday as she pleaded that we avoid this type of content on our websites: "We are dedicated to achieving maximum effectiveness by providing state of the art implementation of IT with leading-edge technology that enables businesses to achieve faster ROI." Yuck!

So, I was thrilled to see that David Meerman Scott published an updated list of gobbledygook phrases in his blog yesterday.

If you aren't familiar with gobbledygook, these are the "jargon-laden phrases that are over-used in your industry" that Scott discussed in his 2007 e-book "The Gobbledygook Manifesto" (a highly-recommended and quick read).

There are 325 phrases that are identified as gobbledygook, but here are the top ten offenders for 2008:

  • Innovate
  • Pleased to
  • Unique
  • Focused on
  • Leading provider
  • Commitment
  • Partnership
  • New and improved
  • Leverage
  • 120 percent

The gobbledygook words in the e-book and the updated list are from press releases, but the application is obvious for all of B2B communications. When you use these types of words, you don't sound smart. Instead, your audience is tuning you out because they have no idea what you are trying to say, and they don't have the time to figure it out.

So what is a B2B marketer to do?

For starters, post a copy of the gobbldeygook words -- the original list as well as the updates -- somewhere close by where you work, and vow to avoid using them whenever possible. The more you familiarize yourself with these terms, the more you will wince when you use them.

As Scott mentions in his post, you can also go to the Goobledygook Grader where you can paste in your text for an automatic "gobbledygook grade" as well as a readability level (minimum level of education needed to understand your content).

Another tip I love is to remove any references to your product/service in whatever you're writing and do the same in something similar that a competitor has written. Have a colleague read both versions, and if they can't easily identify which piece is about your company, then you have some work to do.

It all comes back to understanding your buyer and writing specifically for that person. Take time to really understand who you are writing for and write in words that person can relate to, not words you think they want to hear. It may be tough at first, but your writing -- and messaging -- will be much better as a result.

What gobbledygook words drive you crazy, and, more importantly, what do you do to avoid them?

Comments: 33

Comments

1. Kate Headen  |  my website   |   Thu Apr 09, 2009 @ 03:02AM

Great post Michele. Smaller companies who are new to the web seem to think that throwing around a lot of buzzwords makes them look big, serious, and important. But if you look at the trends, you will see that the big players are actually trying very hard to be more personal and approachable. Web 2.0 at its finest.

2. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Thu Apr 09, 2009 @ 06:50AM

This is a topic near and dear to my writer's heart. There's nothing worse than reading copy that's so convoluted you have to read it twice to grasp the meaning. Like we don't already have enough to think about!
I also read David Scott Meerman's post and loved it. Another tool I have found (but not yet tested) is called "Bull Fighter" ... as in Fight the Bull!^%!@ ;)
You can find it here: http://fightthebull.com/bullfighter.asp

Enjoy!

3. Michele Linn   |   Fri Apr 10, 2009 @ 09:35AM

@Kate: I agree that the tides are (slowly) turning and companies are becoming more approachable, as you say. However, I still see buzzwords flying around, and there is tons of room for improvement.

@Jamie: Thanks for the recommendation. I tried Fight the Bull a few months back and thought it was a handy tool (just as an FYI, it is a program you need to install, and it's only for PCs). I ran the same text in that program that I ran in the Gobbledygook Grader and got similar results. They both identified my use of the phrase "best practices" as something to be avoided :)

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