Enough already, stop saying ‘value add’

A newspaper columnist sets out to slay this third-generation verbal gargoyle.

English is a fluid, malleable language that is ever changing, which I always enjoy. Until someone comes up with a stupid term like “value add.”

“Value add”—I can’t even bring myself to use the word without putting quotes of sarcasm around it. It’s one of those business words that went from being an adjective to a noun with a flick of the jargon pen. I still remember the first time I heard it. (Oh, what a fun conversation that was!)

Friend: I think your ghost-blogging service will make a great “value add” to a marketing agency’s offerings.

Me: What’s a “value add?”

Friend: It’s a thing that adds value. You know, from “value-added.”

Me: Why couldn’t you say “value-added service?”

Friend: This way is shorter.

Me: Except I hate “value-added.” You could say “be valuable.”

Friend: But … this is …

Me: Or “beneficial.” Or “useful.” Or “provide a great service.”

Friend: But I don’t—

Me: Or “helpful.” Or “marvelous.” Or “inestimable.”

“Value add” was created because “value-added” was apparently too hard to say. That somehow the adjective “value-added,” as in “value-added feature,” was bulky and cumbersome, and tripped over the teeth before blubbering through the lips, like Quasimodo trying to recite the Gettysburg Address.

“I know!” shrieked some business jargon harpy, whose song lures young marketers to them in their ships, causing the marketers to hurl themselves onto the jagged rocks of corporate B.S. “Instead of saying ‘value-added,’ which is four syllables, we’ll say ‘value add’ which is only three!” The other harpies cackled with glee, until one young harpy pointed out that “a value add” is still four syllables, whereupon the other harpies ate her.

I was not a big fan of “value-added” when I first heard it. It sounded jargon-y, even if it took two commonly used words— “added” and “value” —and mashed them up into one awful word. English is malleable and fluid, and we are free to do things like that.

But I absolutely abhor and detest the new term, “value add.” It serves no useful function, it sounds more corporate and jargon-y than even “value-added,” if such a thing were possible, and it doesn’t enhance the language so much as it makes me despair for the future of it.

The point of language is to find the best possible words to educate, inform, persuade, enrich, describe and profess. Words like “valuable” do that. If something “has value,” we know it’s important. But jargon takes away from language. It dilutes language and weakens it.

Jargon does not add value to our language. It is a “value-suck.”

Erik Deckers is a newspaper humor columnist and vice president of creative services for Professional Blog Service, where this post originally ran. He is also the co-author of “Branding Yourself” and “No Bullshit Social Media.”

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