Copy-editing with a twist

The ins and outs of being a copy editor

Hear that buzzing? It’s the sound of a trendy word dying.

Posted by Noel Sanchez on October 21, 2008

If you’re interested in living a greener lifestyle and reducing your carbon footprint, why not dabble in DIY projects or become a locavore?

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you might need to brush up on your buzz words.

Buzz words are everywhere. From business-speak to lawyer-ese to subculture slang, it’s hard to resist the temptation of using trendy buzzwords to liven up your writing.

First, there’s the problem of making your writing sound outdated. Using an on-the-rise buzz word might seem cool as you’re writing it, but the novelty wears off quickly with readers. The word might just be the flavor of the week. In a month, it’ll seem stale.

Next, there’s the problem of keeping your writing clear. Buzz words are new and, therefore, unfamiliar to a lot of people. Jargon is obviously a no-no because, by definition, it is not going to be understood by the average reader. But even some commonly used words should still be avoided. For example, I say “DIY” all the time, but I recognize that it’s slang. Although the well-established DIY subculture has been around since the 1970s, it has become a buzz word in recent years as the environmental movement has become more mainstream in response to global warming. I wouldn’t want to use “DIY” in a story today because it still carries that trendy sound, and I don’t know if it will stand the test of time and be embraced by the public.

Of course, some buzz words have to leak into news stories eventually as they become more accepted. Technology terms like “e-mail” and “Internet” were likely buzz words at some point,

Just look at how foreign-sounding this guy makes the Internet sound. I assume the word hadn’t become standardized yet when this CBC news segment aired since the reporter doesn’t even tack on a “the” before it.

Should the reporter not have used the word “Internet”? Of course he should have. It was necessary to the story. If I was doing a story about DIY culture, I’d call it what it is. But casually name-dropping trendy words in your copy is an easy trap to fall into, and it’s important to be well aware of the potential consequences.

If you’re not sure if a word you want to use is a buzz word, BuzzWhack is a useful tool.

And, in case you’re still in the dark about the first sentence in this post:

Green – adj. relating to or being an environmentalist political movement (from Merriam-Webster)
Carbon footprint – n. a measure of the impact a person’s activities have on the environment, and in particular climate change (from carbonfootprint.com)
DIY – n. short for “do it yourself” (from Merriam-Webster)
locavore – n. one whose diet consists primarily of locally-produced food (from BuzzWhack)

Now you can decide for yourself whether you’d like to embrace these eco-friendly words.

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