Six ‘Out-of-the-Box’ Ways PR Writers can Overcome Jargon
Often, between the frank discussions on preparing a message platform and the written messages, we end up with overused and tired clichés, phrases and jargon to describe an otherwise important piece of information.
You’ve heard them all before: turnkey, revolutionary, most leading, state-of-the-art, next generation, out-of-the-box, seamlessly integrated, end-to-end, progressive, solutions, and the list goes on.
Frankly, if you’re saying, “out-of-the-box” to describe your out-of-the-box philosophy, you’re about 20 years ‘in the box.’
Reporters are usually the first recipients of these tired, old phrases. They most likely see them dozens of times per day in pitches, press releases and other content emailed their way.
Recently, Janis Mara, a reporter for the Marin Independent Journal, read in a press release the exact jargon phrase she had used for years as a joke to make fun of PR writing.
Mara said on her Facebook timeline, “You guys, you guys! I just won the lottery! For years, I have had this big joke where I would mock techno-babble jargon press releases by using the phrase ‘seamlessly integrated end-to-end solutions.’ Today I hit the jackpot with an ACTUAL PRESS RELEASE worded thusly: ‘[XXXXXXXX] is the leading global provider of seamlessly integrated end-to-end solutions for mobile….’”
Remarking on the post to JimRomenesko.com readers, she said, “When I started the joke, I was at AdWeek covering the dotcom boom in 1999, and I used it with fellow techno-journalists. Over the years I continued to mock the endless stream of pathetic and meaningless clichés…”
Here are six ways to overcome the use of tired, clichéd phrases in your PR and content writing:
- Change the Cliché. You can make old clichés more interesting by changing them up a bit. Readers will know to what you are referring but will also like the new play on an old phrase. A good example is how often people use, “To be, or not to be,” and change it to something like, “To eat, or not to eat.”
- Use a Thesaurus. Dust it off, place it next to your computer and use it. There are ‘trendy’ words and phrases that creep into common usage and quickly become overused losing their meaning. Instead of using them, work to find alternatives to express your meaning by referring to a thesaurus.
- Read! Read continually. Whether it’s novels, non-fiction, poetry, articles, press releases, stories, or even children’s books, just read. The more you read, the more primed your brain is for conveying meaning. It’s similar to being a cook; you have to sample new ingredients and cooking styles all the time by tasting them and then integrating them into your own cooking. (You can also read cookbooks.)
- Write Down New Words. Closely associated with reading, when you come across new words or a new usage for a familiar word, write it down and try to incorporate it into new writing and speaking – even if just for practice.
- Treat a Lead Like Expensive Property. When a developer purchases an expensive piece of property, his main goal is to make as much money as possible developing every square foot. Treat a lead paragraph the same way. You only have so much space to communicate your important message, space that is wasted with worthless clichés and phrases such as, “…the leading global provider of widgets made from state-of-the art turnkey solutions to provide the most innovative out of the box experience for consumers.” I’m exaggerating a little, but treat that lead paragraph like expensive property to communicate something of substance.
- Match Words to Sentence Flow. Often when you write, you may start to know or feel the rhythm you want in your next sentence or phrase. Fit your words to that rhythm. If you have read or enjoy poetry, you have a sense of what writing rhythm is. Humans are naturally rhythmic oriented (that’s why cross-culturally you always find music and dance).
It is very tempting to use overused clichés and phrases in PR writing. Within our companies and in our industries, we may all know what they mean, but to the average reader – oftentimes our clients and customers – those phrases are meaningless and are actually counterintuitive to the message we want to convey.
By following these simple steps with an added awareness of overused terms, we can all begin to make our written communications more effective, more meaningful and more exciting.
In the comment section, tell me your favorite overused phrases.