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The Power of Words in Business

The Power of Words in Business

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: September 23, 2014

Words can be a very powerful tool. They can help you connect with customers, assist in negotiation and, ultimately, they can help you build your business. That’s why it’s vital to pick your words wisely.

Sometimes otherwise great words and phrases lose their meaning. They get so diluted by overuse that they end up meaning nothing at all. And that’s why it’s important to track how we use them in business.

Choose your words carefully
 I first noticed that phenomenon back in the early 1980s with the phrase “user friendly,” as in “user-friendly” software. That phrase was so attractive to users and advertisers that publishers swarmed all over it. Within a year or so, “user friendly” lost all meaning. Ironically, lots of software, then and now, is actually user hostile. But we in the industry had to look for different wording. That phrase was empty. We all laughed at “user friendly.”

I’m happy to report the pendulum has finally swung back again so that it’s quality of content that matters, not quantity. Word quality is up.

And isn’t this awesome? When I was a kid, “awesome” was reserved for a very few things that truly inspired awe, like Yosemite Valley, the Grand Canyon, and the powers of God (or gods). Hurricanes and earthquakes were awesome. Awe was the active word. You could look it up.

I wonder how much we were all influenced by one particular sportscaster (Howard Cosell) who liked to call a really good play awesome. We had awesome tackles and awesome catches. Whether it was that in particular, or just evolution, awesome now means “good.” Or even “nice.” We have awesome sandwiches, awesome suggestions and awesome t-shirts.

Are you using meaningless phrases?
Think about some of the business phrases we use all the time. How quickly our words can lose meaning. Nobody thinks inside the box anymore. There are no worst practices, not even intermediate or common practices – just best practices. And good luck with the basic math of giving 110% to anything you do. Even when the hold time is half an hour, the menu is nine levels deep, and the answers scarcer than user-hostile software, we are still told, as we’re waiting, that customer satisfaction is that organization’s #1 priority. It’s hard to image what customer service would look like if it weren’t a priority.

Stay clear of content-stuffing
There was another ugly trend a couple of years back called “content-stuffing.”

At one point, it seemed like sites rushed to stuff their pages with junk content — much of it meaningless words and robot-generated SEO garbage — and were rewarded with better rankings in Google searches, and more traffic and sales.

Lots of bloggers went nuts, throwing up any old error-filled, half-baked, two-paragraph post, just to have a post every day of the week. Having boatloads of content was important!

I think we all saw how that was working. I particularly hated the fly-by-night blogs that would steal content and traffic by just copying stuff and filling it full of useful keywords, mucking things up for those of us who actually wanted useful content.

Eventually, so many sites did the junk-content thing, website readers got hip to it and stopped visiting these sites. The sites quickly lost their credibility. Rankings for junk-post sites went down.

The days when blogs could be sloppy, half-thought-out pieces written in 10 minutes and still succeed are over.

A new era has been born and valuable content and word choice is king. It’s not about quantity any more. It’s all about quality.

I hope so.

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at His collected posts are at Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at .