Monday, February 10, 2014

Don’t describe yourself in clichés (1)

Don’t describe yourself, your work, or your organization with a lot of clichés. Clichés work against you by making you sound like everyone else, instead of sounding distinctive. Clichés may even prompt your readers to wonder if you are a vacuous trend-follower like the cliché-loving writers you are unconsciously imitating.

Here’s a typical example of a writer who describes her work in clichés.

Jennifer A. Moss Breen, Ph.D., runs the Ph.D. Program in Human Capital Management at Bellevue University. On the university’s web site she describes the program in these words (I have highlighted several clichés):

“This program is perfect for leaders who want to leverage the latest knowledge and practice in aligning human capital investments with business and organizational outcomes. The learning is based on real-world results coming out of Bellevue University’s Human Capital Lab put into practice in the workplace. The most exciting part of the program is how what is learned and what is practiced will evolve with how the marketplace evolves to recognize human capital’s role in the global competition.”

Analysis: My intent is not to single out or pick on Ms. Moss Breen. Millions of academics and businessmen use these same clichés every day. They are infatuated with leverage (a very old business cliché), align (once the trendiest idea and hottest cliché in business), human capital (probably the current favorite, with 535 million hits on Google), outcomes (an Orwellian replacement for results), exciting (used so often in corporate press releases these days that reporters snicker at it), and evolve (there’s even a condom named “Evolve”).

The Takeaway: Try not to use a lot of clichés. You want to sound distinctive, not common. By definition, clichés makes you sound common. But don’t take my word for it; look up cliché in a dictionary.

See disclaimer.

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