Re-examining the Seven Deadly (Word) Sins

Here at Lieberman Technologies we’ve got a few favorite content writing websites that we follow. These sites help us to stay on top of trends, learn from the best, or even just be entertained or informed. Some of the best articles come from a shop across the pond called Valuable Content. These fine folks write fantastic content about writing fantastic content.

One post in particular, entitled “The Seven Deadly Word Sins,” takes a closer look at the kinds of words that companies use in their branding efforts. Post author Sharon Tanton examines seven words that have been so overused that they have lost much of their original meaning and most of their intended impact. I gave this post some thought and decided it might be a good idea to examine these seven “deadly” words from my own perspective as well as that of our company.

deadly words

{photo credit: flickr}

  1. Solutions
    This one hits close to home for us here at LT, as we tend to talk about providing technology solutions for our clients quite a bit. Even our top salesperson doesn’t have “sales” in his title, but is rather a Senior Solutions Consultant. Tanton’s beef is regarding the specificity of the type of solution being provided. Since we are a technology company, with “technology” actually built into our name, maybe we can get away with the generic solutions term a bit more. Being able to solve specific problems is much more useful than just offering generic help. But her point is well taken. We are now actively striving to be more specific about the solutions that we can provide when talking with customers.
  2. Facilitate
    “Facilitate” has a specific meaning, and Tanton would prefer for us to intend that specific meaning when we say it. Setting up a meeting or organizing an event should be clearly communicated as such. To us, facilitation implies some sort of interactivity and connective action. If that’s what it means in context, then by all means, use “facilitate.” Otherwise, the English language probably has some other words that would be better to use.
  3. “Orientated” as a suffix, like results-orientated, or worse, solutions-orientated.
    With a bit of a tie-in from sin number one, this word (or suffix) is actually not used as much as the shorter “oriented” here in the U.S., but the point remains the same. I’d actually disagree with this one, as I like to tack on this word when describing the manner in which we approach a specific behavior. I’d argue that there’s a difference between doing something for its own sake, and doing something for the sake of the results it is oriented toward. Perhaps “results-focused” would be more palatable, but I’d wager not.
  4. “Focused,” as a suffix.
    (see above)
  5. Dynamic
    I’m completely in agreement with Ms. Tanton here. I have a vague recollection of when this word was once used to contrast something static, but it now seems to be just a word thrown in when other adjectives seem to fall short. I can understand the appeal of it. It calls to mind powerful images like dynamite explosions or even dinosaurs. But it’s really not juxtaposing a static idea, so perhaps we should use something else.
  6. Passionate
    Probably one of the most overused words out there. It’s hard to say it any better than Sharon does here at the end: “save it for your lovers.”
  7. Synergy. Paradigm. Proactive.
    It would be nice if these words were all related, but they’re not and so it’s probably best to tackle them one by one.

    Synergy is a very interesting word when you look at its actual meaning. It’s basically a one word explanation of a situation where the sum is greater that the combination of its individual parts. It’s a word that everyone seems to have gotten too excited about, all at the same time, and was thus beaten to death by overuse in the past several years.

    A paradigm is a “typical example or model of something.” Usually it implies that a standard is in place, and Product X is the perfect candidate to replace it. You almost always hear this word preceded by “new.” When everyone starts using it, it becomes clear that these are not actually new paradigms, but “fads.” There aren’t a lot of people out there who like to blatantly associate themselves with a fad, even if it might be accurate. I’m with Sharon here, let’s drop this one.

    Finally, we come to proactive. Now, you know the common comparison word that this one is always used with, right? So why should I even say it here? I’m going to be proactive and assume that you already know, instead of being reactive and waiting for you to ask me for that example.

OK, that last one hurt my brain a bit. I’m glad we’re at the end now. But…

It makes me think that this list may stand to be updated a bit. What do you think? Are there more words that need to be put on this list?

What “deadly” word sins would you add?