When it comes to language – every business has its own words. Whether you are in education, marketing, banking, retail, non-profit, or any other field, you are bound to come across words that are industry-specific, sometimes trite, and (if not already) eventually overused.

Using buzzwords can give us a sense of belonging. When we use them we are “in the know.” We somehow feel that we have arrived and are accepted. If we are not careful, however, buzzwords can do more harm than good.

Because buzzwords are trendy, they have a shelf life. Think in terms of fashion. Certain buzzwords are the side pony tails and leisure suites that shouldn’t be worn today. Also due to their trendiness (among other things) they can serve to alienate those who aren’t “in the know.” Sometimes those people are your customers, co-workers, and higher-ups.

Buzzwords can also be a re-use/intentional misuse of a term from another industry applied to a different field. Accounting terms get used this way all the time (i.e., “bottom line;” “on the margin”).

I’ve compiled my list of buzzwords that are currently making the rounds – and a few that should have been retired quite awhile ago.

  • Bandwidth – originally referring only to the Internet and available rate of data transfer, bandwidth described the capacity that may or may not be available for data processing. It has since become synonymous with a person’s ability to process information or even a group/business capacity.
  • Growth Hacking – This refers to a marketing strategy to grow a business quickly.
  • C-Suite – This refers to the highest-level administration in a company (CEO, CIO, CFO, COO, etc.) named because their titles all begin with “C.”
  • Lens – Used a lot in education, this refers to viewing a challenge, issue, or problem in a different way – or “through a different lens.”
  • Pivot – This term simply means something wasn’t working, so we changed our strategy to adjust.
  • Pre-revenue – That time when a business is in its formation and hasn’t sold anything yet. This is a euphemism for “we aren’t making money yet.”

While there are, of course, dozens (if not hundreds) more, you get the idea. The concepts and meanings are valid, but we should definitely find a better way to communicate them.

Otherwise we may become “yesterday’s news.”