The Basics of Recognizing and Using Buzzwords

What even is a buzzword?

Buzzwords are jargon. Lingo. Words meant to elicit a certain reaction. Buzzwords are often used to make a company sound more “hip” or current, as part of the popular trend. They are usually meant to catch the eye of those who don’t really understand their meaning but want to sound cool–think of the kid on the playground using big words he’s heard from his parents, often without really knowing what they mean. 

One example is the term “AI” (Artificial Intelligence). While AI is a real thing, and something companies are using quite successfully, the way AI as a term is used in marketing is often more “buzzword” and less “information.” It’s meant to catch the eye of the less-informed. How many people know what AI really means? (Hint: it has very little to do with Star Wars droids or HAL from 2001 Space Odyssey). 

When should I avoid buzzwords?

Don’t use them just to fit in or draw attention–make sure to be accurate. And often, it’s best to avoid buzzwords in everyday conversation. When giving a presentation to employees, talking about “synergy” or “disruption” often won’t get much across. Speaking about “aligning with company values” means very little to someone who isn’t passionate about the company; who is just there to earn money to support themselves and their family. 

"Sometimes I use big words I don't understand in an attempt to sound more photosynthesis"
An example of trying to use a word one doesn’t understand, and how it can go wrong

Can using buzzwords be beneficial?

Sure! But be careful. Make sure before you use it that you understand it. Make sure your target audience will understand it (your average Joe won’t really know what any of your tech jargon means, for example). And, finally, make sure you aren’t just using the word to get attention. Getting attention can be a facet of the word’s usefulness, but shouldn’t be its only purpose.

It’s all about context. Use buzzwords when they’re more than attention-getters. If you’re talking about AI with someone who understands AI, then by all means use the term. If you’re talking about a PR project, then making sure the project aligns itself with the values that are important within the company is something that needs to be discussed. 

Buzzwords get a bad rap, but in the end, they’re only lingo. And when used right, lingo can make for extremely effective communication. Think of other cliches or pop culture references you use in your day-to-day life–what are those but interpersonal buzzwords? 

In the end, the best practice is to be precise with your language and honest with your meaning. 


Holder, Steve. “What is AI, really? And what does it mean to my business?” SAS Institute.

Rahal, Amine. “Twelve Business Buzzwords To Consider Removing From Your Vocabulary In 2020.” Forbes, 29 September 2020.


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