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Written by The Mezzanine Group
on July 11, 2008

One of my closest friends has a tendency to use words that don't actually exist. When I occasionally call him on this, his response is invariably, "I'm in marketing; I'm supposed to make up words."

Really? Is making up words actually in the job description?

Typical wisdom says that buzz words are bad. But what about non-words? Shouldn't there be a distinction between words used correctly and incorrectly? There are no absolutes, no categories that are always bad or always good. I do, however, have an opinion as to where certain categories of words might fall on that scale of good to bad.

Real words used well: The best of all possible situations. Language, when used appropriately can evoke emotion, and perhaps more importantly, action. Great writing uses real words well.

Real words used correctly: Even if it's not the St. Crispin's Day Speech, there is a lot to be said for choosing the appropriate words. Stay buzzword free, and you'll automatically be ahead of the pack.

Buzzwords used correctly: This happens when an overused word actually gets used in the correct context. It's OK to use the word 'leverage' if you're actually talking about compounding effort to take advantage of something.

Real words used incorrectly: This is far more common than you think, mostly as a result of the easy access to online and word processor thesauri.

Buzzwords used incorrectly: The dreaded result of trying to take what you really mean and make it sound more impressive. Stop. It sounds worse. It's not OK to say 'utilize' when you mean 'use' (they are not synonyms). It's not OK to say 'revolutionize' when you mean 'adjust' or 'change'.

Non-words: Typically coined by bloggers, these words are the business equivalent of 'Brangelina'. No, massclusivity (exclusivity for the masses) and brandscape (the landscape of brands within a market) are not words. They're non-words.

 

 

The place that marketers CAN excel with non-words is when they're branding. Neutron LLC's most recent Steal This Idea discusses the 6 naming styles for brands, and the neological style (putting together morphemes to create new words with particular attributes) is essentially the creation of non-words. Non-words used well become new words, and then we're back at the beginning of the spectrum again, evoking emotion and action from our audience.

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