As I edit the writings of others, there are some words I merely delete. But a select few are forcefully eradicated with a sneer. They are a blight upon the literary landscape. Yet I come across them every day.
Let’s list a few:
Seamless: This is one that is seamlessly thrown into press releases and brochures with abandon. When every new feature or function is seamless, it becomes a meaningless addition to a sentence.
Elegant: I heard this first about 20 years ago. I liked it the first time someone said to me, “It is an elegant approach …”. But then I heard it again and again. One wonders if they are saying that their previous product was inelegant or clunky, but this time they got the elegance factor right.
Industry leading: Oh, dear. This could be an entire column. It is best summed up by a fictitious press release quote I developed a few years ago. Yet this one is close to the drivel you see in many quotes that were approved by legions of PRs and execs. What were they thinking?
“As the market leader in our field, we feel certain that our market leading technology will continue to lead the market,” said Dick Vain, CEO, Conceited Corp.
Just about everyone says they are the market leader. It is utter nonsense. For example, I am the market leading freelance writer in the Tampa Bay Area specializing in IT, business and engineering, who lives on the beach, is Scottish and has a Polish wife. If you add enough clauses, you can define anything so narrowly that you are the leader. In other words, there is no one else in your category.
Others just toss the phrase out there as something you are supposed to say in the hope that the audience will hypnotically believe it. As a note, the real market leaders rarely need to say they are the market leader. It is obvious.
Proven: This is another one I edit out of so many articles. “Our proven solution.” or “This proven technology ….” Not worth saying.
New: Another added inapplicable word in most cases. If a company is releasing a product, it is clearly new. Why add “new” to the sentence.
Advanced: Things are not only “new,” they are also “advanced” in most cases. Was the old product regressive or low tech? Using “advanced” implies the previous version was anything but. And in any case, everyone says their new software is advanced. It is not just analytics, it is advanced analytics. It is advanced management, advanced security.
Proactive: This one was sexy a quarter of a century back. You still see articles trying to make the argument that it is better to be proactive rather than reactive. It’s old.
Highly: Another pointless modifier placed before words such as resilient, available or reliable. I usually delete it.
Solution: This is one of the most overused words out there. I am guessing that lawyers inadvertently caused this. How? Legal cases about names such as Hoover that became the generic name for the function. If Hoover had said “Our Hoover vacuuming solution …” they may have retained the rights to the word. But they lost. Now everyone has to add solution.
It gets worse. A bottle of water has become a dehydration solution. A pen becomes a personal writing solution. Toilet paper will eventually be branded as a personal hygiene solution.
How about this as an entry for a Pulitzer?
This elegantly seamless and proven solution from the industry leader sets a new standard in advanced, proactive and highly reliable …”
Examine some current press releases and witness this disease in all its glory.