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The Dirty Words of 2013

Every year, Lake Superior State University in Michigan publishes a list of played out, meaningless words that ought to be banished from the English language. Awesome idea! Except that their list of words for 2013 left me dissatisfied on many levels.

For example, YOLO? I just discovered this cute acronym earlier this year and I kind of dig it. And how did Boneless Wings make the list? I can’t imagine people use this description often enough to consider it offensive, not to mention it’s more accurate than chicken nuggets or chicken fingers.

Oh well. The article riled me up enough to create my own list of words to never speak again in 2013 – many of them at the root of all evil in advertising, recruiting and advertising recruitment.

1.  Strategic Planning. Why does “strategic” have to modify planning? As if all other planning non-strategic. And if trying to describe the kind of planning we’re doing – tactical, marketing, long-term – can’t we just say it? I want more information. Are you responsible for planning the marketing mix? The focus and service offering for the agency? Where new business and innovation are going to come from… What exactly is your contribution to strategy?

2.  Reach out. Recruiters are especially guilty of “reaching out” and I feel like a jerk every time I slip up and say it. Where did it come from? Maybe that creepy “Reach out and touch someone” telephone commercial from the 1980s? It’s about as swarmy and insincere as a used car salesman.

3.  Let me know if you have any questions. As an email sign-off. Gregg Weiss brought this to my attention in one of his Facebook posts. I get the intent. It’s Can I trust that you’ve received this, understand it and can take things from here? But man, there’s got to be a better way. Depending on the audience and how formal you need to keep things, why not have fun with it? For example, Roger that? Are we cool? All good? I wouldn’t recommend Capiche? An old client of mine used to say that and I always thought he was a…

4.  Use my skills. As an Objective on a resume. Like nails on a chalkboard. You, me, Prince Harry and pretty much every employer is interested in matching jobs to skills. Duh. No need to state the obvious. What to lead with instead? I’m going to take a stand and say that an Objective section is really only necessary if you need to caveat your professional goals and experience, as in the case of a career change. E.g. Former management consulting executive looking to transfer analytical skills to a career in Market Research. Otherwise, a Profile that describes what gives you a competitive advantage over other candidates is a much better use of this space. PS – Don’t think “Leverage my skills” is any better. It’s just the trumped-up, WSJ equivalent. Which makes it worse, actually.

5.  WTF. I know. Advertising and advertising recruitment offer many, many reasons to swear on a daily basis. We’re sailors, all of us. Exactly why we need more imagination and diversity here. Suggestions welcome!

There are more dirty words, I’m sure. These are the first that came to mind. If we’re on the phone and you catch me using any of them, feel free to charge me a dollar. And if I catch you, I’ll have to insist you send me a cupcake or an exquisite piece of chocolate. (But definitely not a boneless wing. Eww.)


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