The List of Buzzwords You Should Never Use In a Pitch

I get several hundred pitches in the course of a typical day. It’s part of the job — startups, PR agencies and big tech companies pitch us on their products, and we decide which ones are the best fit for our readers.

But going through hundreds of pitches every single day is rough. We (journalists) can’t possibly go through every email, so we look for signals that help us sort out the stories we want to follow up on and the stories we need to trash.

One of the signals that can get your email trashed is the use of buzzwords. While not every pitch with a buzzword in the subject is a bad pitch, most of them turn out to be for crappy products that don’t stand on their own merits. There’s a strong correlation.

In the interest of killing the overuse of buzzwords, I have collected a short list of the worst buzzwords to use in a pitch. These are the worst of the worst. They are overused and add little to no value to a pitch.

(In the interest of being helpful and not just preachy, next week I’ll post some tips for what you SHOULD do to get your pitch noticed.)

Check out the list below. This is a living list — I intend to update it regularly, so let me know what words you’d like me to add the list in the comments.

The List of Buzzwords You Should Never Use In a Pitch

In no particular order…

  1. “Disruptive” – Punishable by instant deletion of your email.
  2. “Game-changing” – The market will decide if your technology is game-changing. We don’t need you to make the claim.
  3. “Revolutionary” – Even worse than game-changing.
  4. “Next-generation” – This word doesn’t really describe any of the attributes of your product. What the hell is a “next-generation social network?” Just tell us what your product does, not how shiny it is.
  5. “Solution” – “Solution” always seems to get paired with other terrible buzzwords, e.g. “leading solution,” “disruptive solution.” Don’t call yourself a solution — just explain what you solve.
  6. “Leading” – “We’re the market leader in…” “We’re the leading solution for…” Leaders don’t typically scream, “I’m the leader!” They prove they’re the leader until nobody can ignore what they’re doing. I don’t need Foursquare to tell me they’re the leader in geosocial or Google to tell me they’re the leader in search.
  7. “Excited” – Look, I get that you’re excited about your product/startup/announcement. You should be. But it’s such an overused word in press releases that it has lost its meaning. Check out one of my favorite Tumblelogs, Everyone’s Excited In Press Releases to see what I mean.
  8. “Never Before Seen.” – No. Just no.
  9. “Synergy” – This word has been on the blacklist of many journalists for years.
  10. “__ Killer” – I am not even opening your email if it says “iPhone killer”, “Facebook killer”, “Quora killer,” etc.
  11. “Groundbreaking” – See “game-changing” and “revolutionary”.
  12. “Transformative” or “Transformational” – See #11.
  13. Paradigm shift – I haven’t seen this one in a while, but that’s probably because I have an email filter that removes any email with this phrase.

Bonus: Buzzwords You Should Use With Caution In Your Pitches

  1. “SaaS” – Also known as Software as a Service, it is a term that describes an industry. It’s also a term that some professionals just throw into pitches because they think it makes their product more legitimate. The truth is that “SaaS” is not a selling point anymore.
  2. “Engage” and “Engagement” – Engagement is a good thing, and it’s useful in certain situations. But if you start using it as a generality — “We’re a high-engagement tool,” “We increase user engagement” — without specifics, your pitch will fall on deaf ears.
  3. “Open” – Open can mean anything. For some, it means open-source software. For some, it means free software. For some, it’s just a silly buzzword they think will get people to like them more. Be careful when you describe something as “open”, and be specific about what “open” means.
  4. “Transparent” – See above.

Image courtesy of ThinkGeek. Also, I really need to buy that stamp.