Friday, October 13, 2006

The Gobbledygook Manifesto lays down the gauntlet!

David Scott, an online content marketing expert, has just released the Gobbledygook Manifesto, which looks at some of the most overused words in press releases. PR professionals pay attention!

While our earlier cliche media analysis sort to look at some of the most over-used cliches in the global business media, we worked with David to provide Factiva media analysis based on over 388,000 press releases issued in the first 9 months of this year, with a view to seeing how frequently a pool of about 20 over-abused terms appeared.

As David's post points out, about 1 in 5 press releases contains adjectives that David considers to be Gobbledygook, that is, meaningless phrases that clutter corporate writing.

The winner (or most abused term), was "next generation", with over 9,800 references in US-issued press releases this year. Here are more results from David's post.

"There were over 5,000 uses of each of the following words and phrases: "flexible," "robust," "world class," "scalable," and "easy to use." Other notably overused phrases with between 2,000 and 5,000 uses included "cutting edge," "mission critical," "market leading," "industry standard," "turnkey," and "groundbreaking." Oh and don't forget "interoperable," "best of breed," and "user friendly," each with over 1,000 uses in news releases."

UK-issued releases fared somewhat better, with only about 11% (29,300+) of the 264,000 press releases issued across UK wires in the last 9 months, containing Gobbledygook phrases. Interestingly, "next generation" is up there, but "cutting edge" appears more frequently in UK releases than in the US.

I would love to have a Plain English day, where all corporates eliminated superfluous adjectives and actually communicated clearly. We have the luxury of choosing from thousands of words to describe what our organisations do...are we really cutting edge if every man and his dog (bang goes another cliche!) is as well?

Stay tuned on the Gobbledygook Manifesto, and use it as a checklist to see if your corporate communications are degenerating into repetitive blah. I shall certainly be doing so.


Anonymous David Meerman Scott said...

Hi Melanie, thank you again for working with me on this fun project! I wonder if there are some terms that are used often in the UK but not so frequently in North America. The cultural aspect of what words are overused and why is indeed very interesting!

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi David,

No problem! It was indeed a fun project. I'll poll some colleagues here in the UK and see if we can expand the analysis to highlight cultural variations.

It goes to show that a "one message fits all audiences" approch may not necesarily be the best one.

2:01 PM  

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