Waging a Global War on Weasel Words

From the no-nonsense folks at 37 Signals – the publishers of Basecamp, the excellent web-based project management tool we use – comes this editorial on what we call “weasel words”…

“Our industry is addicted to bullshit buzzwords. Emails are full of ‘I’m an insider’ jargon, blog posts brim with tech duckspeak, and resumes are loaded with meaningless action verbs. Everyone’s always implementing or enabling or optimizing or leveraging. There are endless value streams, efficiencies, solutions, infrastructures, and enterprises.

“These buzzwords are often a mask. People who use them are covering up their ideas — or the lack thereof. They are overcompensating. They don’t have anything substantial to say so they try to use impressive sounding words instead.

“But people who abuse buzzwords don’t sound smart. They sound like they are trying to sound smart. Big difference…”   

More excerpts:

“Tech folks often use terms that imply we’re part of some secret club. It’s as if we’re saying, “We can speak in a code that those other people can’t understand.” It’s a way to build a wall that separates us from them. It’s a form of exclusion.

“You don’t need to build walls or exclude people when you’re confident in your message though. When you’re confident in your message, you want everyone to understand […]

“Great communicators recognize the power of simple statements. They realize that important ideas don’t have to be dressed up in fancy language.

“For example, Edward Tufte does a wonderful job of communicating complex concepts in a simple way. Even though he’s a Yale professor, he avoids relying on highbrow academic terms. Some examples of Tufte’s plainspoken style:

“Lurking behind chartjunk is contempt for both information and audience.”…”Simple design, intense content.”…”The idea of trying to create things that last — forever knowledge — has guided my work for a long time now.”…”If you look after truth and goodness, beauty looks after herself.”…”If your words aren’t truthful, the finest optically letter-spaced typography won’t help. And if your images aren’t on point, making them dance in color in three dimensions won’t help…”

Read the full post on the 37 Signals website.