Stop the world.  Not literally.  But I sure would like to stop the poor use of several words that seem to show up often in press releases, articles and, it just seems, everywhere.   When used well, this language greatly assists understanding.  Unfortunately,  they are so overused that they have become almost meaningless.

Here they are:

1. Superlatives

Be careful about using the word first, best, greatest or any word that has an “est” on the end of it.   If you want to use a superlative, you had better be able to demonstrate that, in fact, your product , service or idea,  truly deserves the  “est” attached to it.  Show ‘em, don’t just tell ‘em.

2. The phrase “leading provider”

I’ve read about many companies whose work I really don’t understand except that I’m told they are the “leading provider” of it.   If you have to say that you are leading, you probably aren’t.

3. Breakthrough

The jet engine, MRIs, penicillin, computers were breakthroughs.  Is a new LED screen for a TV a breakthrough?  A more absorbent paper towel?  Not sure about that.

4. Transformative

This is a word that gets used a great deal especially when talking about social change.  When something is transformative, it implies major change, something that goes beyond the incremental.  The life of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized young boy depicted in the new movie “The Blind Side”, who becomes an All American football player and first round draft pick, is a story of transformation for him and the family that helped him.

5.  Innovative

To be innovative means that it is something that is used or introduced for the first time  or something that makes changes in what already exists.  It seems that everything these days is innovative.  But like the other words above,  for something to be called innovative, it  really ought to be a game changer.

To sum it all up, the words above set big expectations.  If your product, service or idea, can’t live up to the big promises that these words make, then don’t make them.   And if you claim big things,  prove it.