After running into countless uses of the word “cadence” over the past few months, I’m hopping on my Grouch Train. As happened with the word “resonate,” overuse has turned a respectable word into one that screams jargon.
Here’s a look at cadence and some of the other words on my jargon radar, and what you might use instead:
- Example: “Managing a remote sales team is not easy, but with the right communication strategy and cadence, you can create an environment that fosters a highly effective one.”
- Meaning: Cadence means a regular, repeated pattern in pitch, rhythm or flow. Jargonistas use it to describe how often a scheduled event is repeated. (The image of the jargon meter shown here – buried full into the red jargon zone for cadence – is from Science and Public’s De-Jargonizer tool.)
- Replace it with: “...the right communication strategy and frequency…”
- Example: “The reality of how companies are dealing with the crisis and preparing for the recovery tells a very different story, one of pivoting to business models conducive to short-term survival along with long-term resilience and growth.”
- Meaning: Pivot means to turn, hinge or depend on; synonyms including revolve, twist, spin, swivel, circle, swing, turn or hinge. As jargon, it gives the impression you are a nimble ninja making a quick move to something completely different.
- Replace it with: “…one of switching gears to…” (a simple turning also works)
- Example: “Browse our menu of bespoke services to see how we can support your alternative investment fund with our expertise.”
- Meaning: Once a word that applied to custom or tailored clothing, now it’s been hijacked to suggest custom or tailored work. As the amusing Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary says, “If you’re not making a suit, I don’t want to hear you say this word.”
- Replace it with: “…of services tailored to your needs.”
- Example: “We have also doubled down on our regular cleaning program, while adding a sanitizing process (often used in healthcare facilities) to disinfect all aircraft cabins.”
- Meaning: In blackjack, the term means to double your bid on a hand in which you have confidence, but now it often refers to taking risks, working harder or strengthening your commitment to something. Although it’s getting fresh use in 2020, Dictionary.com says that it was already a buzzword in 2010, and by 2012 had “become the go-to phrase for tech CEOs when they want to allay fears that their company is flagging,” making it “the most meaningless phrase in tech.”
- Replace it with: “We have intensified our regular cleaning” (or stepped up, increased, doubled/tripled).
- Example: “We need to unpack this concept before we pursue the idea further.”
- Meaning: You and I usually unpack a suitcase. Those who love jargon mean to explore or examine something in detail.
- Replace it with: “We need to study this concept” (or examine or understand).
- Example: “It was the most egregious act the government has ever perpetrated.”
- Meaning: This used to mean distinguished (in archaic meaning) but now more likely conspicuously bad, glaring or flagrant. I confess this word always makes me stop and think, “what does that mean again?” and that’s not what you want your writing to do.
- Replace it with: “It was the most glaring act of…”
Skillset (or skill set)
- Example: “She chooses to pursue a position in public relations…reasoning that it will require much the same skill set that a published writer has.”
- Meaning: A collection of abilities that can be applied to a professional endeavour.
- What to use instead: “…it will require many of the same skills…”
In general, avoid jargon to make your meaning clear. You also avoid the damage that results when readers roll their eyes at words like “cadence” and “bespoke.”
Do you find yourself running into these words more often too? What fresh jargon has offended you lately? Join me on the Grouch Train!
Enjoy previous rants about like a boss and hack
See the De-Jargonizer tool at work in Don’t let jargon get in the way of trust
Double down on your COVID-19 jargon cleaning efforts
Play ‘lockdown bingo’ with corporate clichés