I’ve written about paying attention to the nature of one’s material. And the best material, of the highest quality, purpose, and vision, lands flat when the wrong word is chosen and the delivery is off. George Orwell saw this nearly 70 years ago when he wrote his essay “Politics and the English Language,” calling out the needless butchering of language.
His main gripe? Stop overwriting.
Orwell loathed the occurrence of folks using overly complicated language just to sound smart. He adored clarity. He hated empty phrases. He wanted to have babies with directness and originality.
Content marketers and businesses should follow his lead. It’s time to salvage your great ideas from the jaws of obscure phrases and junky language.
So in the interests of elevating your delivery standards to the level of master-comedian-craftsmen, let’s start by adopting Orwell’s war on jargon and inflated language.
Synergy – This word sounds great. You instantly visualize machinery or abstract concepts forming precise…what exactly? Originally a scientific term to describe two elements interacting to create an effect greater than the sum of their parts, this word has been loosely thrown about to mean everything from “collaboration,” to “combination,” to “interaction.” Be specific and use one of those words. Unless of course you’re working with the noble gasses.
Dynamic – Another from those wacky scientists, this one having to do with the force of motion (as opposed to being static). This little guy has been spotted around the country wearing the disguise of “changeable” or “complex.”
Impactful – What? Do you mean the impactful project was also effectful? Or was the project just effective?
Disambiguate – Hey there, “clarify,” you’re looking pretty good today.
Actionable – Technically a word, using it in a sentence is as pleasant as a horse kick to the head.
Paradigm – These are patterns. Or maybe they’re archetypes. Or maybe they’re frameworks. It gets even worse when they start shifting.
Price Point – Somewhere along the line, this specific economic term has come to replace our everyday, “price.” I don’t need the baker to sound like he has an MBA. I just want to know how much that cake costs.
Best Practice – This pre-packaged phrase has somehow risen to “golden calf status.” Talk about your admirable methods like a human, not an automaton.
Passion – This is one of those words that has completely lost its mojo. Originally referring to the suffering of Jesus, the Latin “passio” eventually evolved with its French equivalent to refer to a range of strong emotion including extreme anger and sexual attraction. When someone says they have a passion for the TV show, “Full House,” we have lost our right to use this word.
Leader – Seems like everyone wants to be a leader. But if everyone is a leader, then who are we leading? What is the sound of one hand clapping? Does being good matter anymore?
With these words stripped from use, you’ll be forced to say what you actually mean more often, becoming a craftsman of language. This way, whether telling a silly joke or writing great content, the magic of your material won’t be wasted.