‘Solutions’: Can we please ban this word?

Four reasons this meaningless word should never see the light of day again.

Everyone knows that incorporating the word “solutions” into your professional vocabulary is a short-cut to sounding stupid. The UK satirical magazine Private Eye publishes a column devoted to collecting examples of this vile little piece of corporate-speak.

Yet this low-point of the business lexis just won’t die. Few professionals, it seems, can resist the pull of the pretentious when they push their wares.

Yesterday I came across the repeated use of “solutions” in a brochure for a communications team. You’d think they’d have access to a copywriter who might know better. (Though the document also contained alarmingly frequent references to “our value proposition,” whatever that means.)

So in the war on “solutions,” I hereby present my four top reasons to bury this nasty word once and for all.

1. It’s inevitably used in a pompously opaque phrase to describe something very simple. For example, I came across a company advertising itself as a provider of “fluid transfer solutions.”

It turns out they made hoses. Yes, hoses.

Had I been in need of a hose that day, they’d have lost a sale simply because a potential customer had no idea what they were selling.

I’m sure if you’re in the rather mundane business of selling hoses, you might feel the need to build yourself up among your dinner party circle now that it’s no longer cool to brag about the size of your mortgage.

But to put off potential customers in this way is madness verging on bankruptcy.

2. It’s invariably redundant. What does “joinery solutions” say that “joinery” doesn’t? Or “herb solutions” rather than “herbs”?

As all decent writers know, the fewer words you use the better, so ditch the meaningless appendage, please.

3. It’s downright ugly. Can there be anything less appetizing than the “Italian meal solutions” offered at my local supermarket?

I guess if you see eating as problem requiring a solution, then your ideal meal would be something that sounds like astronaut provisions.

4. It’s a magnet for similarly tedious expressions found in the corporate lexicon.

What, you hadn’t noticed that solutions are always “delivered”? And if they’re not “creative” then they’re at least “cost-effective.” Sometimes they’re “innovative” as well as “integrated.” And they’re always best when they’re “tailored” or “targeted.”

The resulting corporate babble is formulaic to the point of meaninglessness.

Saying you “specialize in creative, tailored solutions that deliver real business value” tells me nothing about what you actually do.

What it does tell me is that you’re obviously so busy delivering these creative, tailored solutions that you skimped on the copywriter and came up with a tired, generic blurb that could have been pinched from a competitor’s website.

Scratch that—I mean any business website.

Oh, and that you think I’m stupid enough to be taken in by it.

Clare Lynch is chief business writer and trainer at Doris and Bertie, a U.K. communications agency that helps businesspeople ditch corporate-speak and talk like human beings. Follow her on Twitter @goodcopybadcopy.

A version of this post first appeared on the Straight North Blog.

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