EAGLE EYE | Ban this word, not that word
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Ban this word, not that word

blog post 1_banish_words_imageIn its 41st edition (yes, the list was started in 1976), Lake Superior State University has added to its ever-growing list of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness—and which consists “entirely of nominations received from around the world throughout the year.” The 2016 list contains some doozies, such as secret sauce, presser (oddly enough, meaning a press release), and physicality. Yet there are other words that, while they may be popular for all the wrong reasons, certainly serve a purpose or describe something in a way no other word does, such as vape and manspreading.

While I will admit to a certain amount of frustration, at times, with my clients’ word choices, I would not advocate for the complete banishment of any word. Yes, the word stakeholder is overused by each and every one of my clients—no hyperbole here—and I do get annoyed when I see terms like “break the internet” a gogo, or hear the word physicality and cannot figure out what the person is talking about. Yet such words do have their use when used in the right context.

With my clients, however, I make every effort to not use such words when a better word is available, such as client, customer, member or participant instead of stakeholder; or popular or online domination instead of break the internet. In cases such as this, by grouping all categories into one word or phrase, especially one that makes no sense (Can the internet even be broken, especially by a surge in traffic?), we lose the capacity to clearly communicate what we are talking about and can easily confuse the people we are trying to reach.

English is ever-evolving and trying to slow it down or make it conform to our ideas and ideals is not only impossible, but a fool’s errand. People only change their way of communicating when the communication is not getting through. Thus while I make every effort to ensure that what my clients are trying to communicate is clear, concise and in keeping with their standards, I will not push my ideas onto them nor advocate that they stop using this or that word or phrase, but rather seek to replace it, where possible, with an unambiguous or more appropriate synonym.