WORDICULTURE, PART 1: MEANINGLESS BUZZWORDS

As a copywriter, dabbling journalist and obsessive student of the English language, I have no choice but to be a word geek. This doesn’t mean that I’m all about pretentious, highfalutin communication. It just means that I pay painfully close attention to word choice, for good or ill.

I feel true love for some words, an absolute disdain for others. Today, we’re going to start with the latter. Here we go.

1. Listicle

If this were BuzzFeed, they’d call this a listicle, an attempt to mash two perfectly good things into one inanely named piece of work. Clearly, there are two separate things in the world, lists and articles. For instance, this is not an article; it is a list of words that are egregious in one man’s opinion.

2. Ownable

Another word you won’t find in any dictionary, but you’ll hear used repeatedly in brand and agency boardrooms everywhere. Here are some things that people claim to be ownable: ideas, experiences, content (we’ll get to this one), the list goes on. How about we just replace it with credible, or even just great?

3. Viral

Isn’t a virus something that we don’t want spreading? Remember the movie Outbreak? Like that deadly disease that Dustin Hoffman tried so hard to stop, I’d argue the things that “go viral” shouldn’t. Did Gangnam Style or the latest Kardashian saga make the world a better place? I don’t think so.

4. Content

The dictionary defines content as happy or satisfied, but brands, marketers and advertising people have turned it into another name for what I personally call work. Maybe it’s my journalism experience creeping in, but I also use the descriptor article for written work that isn’t blatant advertising. And content marketing, that’s just a thin guise for ads with more words or lifestyle images instead of products and logos.

5. Immersive

I’ll admit that I’m guilty of having used this word many times to push digital advertising experiences. No one is perfect, but most brand marketers don’t question the fact that we’re not exactly submerging their audience in product or a real world situation that makes them feel really feel it. From now on, I’m going to make a point to use words like engaging or addictive to describe work. That is, until I can sell an idea that literally dunks consumers into swimming pools filled with liquor or puts them inside a massive reconstruction of the latest tech device.