Why 'solutions' is a dirty word.

Why 'solutions' is a dirty word.

             A solution, earlier.

             A solution, earlier.


Here’s why I steer clients away from the ‘s’ word.

I saw a van the other day with ‘Office solutions’ written on it, and a phone number. That’s all. What do you think they do? Do they fit office furniture? Perhaps they bring lunchtime sandwiches. Maybe they install and maintain water coolers, or supply juggling clowns to boost flagging morale.

Nope. They supply IT equipment. And I only discovered that by phoning them. Thing is, if I’d been in the market for some office IT equipment, I wouldn’t have called because I wouldn’t have known what they did.

Don't be afraid to say what you do in the simplest terms.

Obviously ‘solutions’ is too vague. But it’s become part of the rotten business language that many organisations default to because they think ‘that’s how businesses write’. And it’s not their fault, because boring business language is such a big monster that it just sucks other businesses into its gaping maw.

I’ve seen some terrible examples, the worst of which had to be in the aisle of a well-known supermarket chain. There, hanging from the ceiling, was a huge sign saying ‘Dining solutions’. I’m not kidding. Being a naturally curious kind of copywriter, I had to know what a dining solution was. The answer? Frozen ready meals. So why not just say ‘Ready meals’? The same way the office solutions van could have said ‘Office IT equipment’. There’s no shame in saying exactly what you do.

'Solutions' is a waste of a word.

'Jenkins House Cleaning Solutions'. Sounds like they could get by just as well with 'Jenkins House Cleaning'. 'Barry Electrical Solutions' turned out to be a Mr. Barry, who was an electrician. And 'Packaging Solutions for the Drinks Industry' could be 'Packaging for the drinks industry'. Not only would ditching the word make understanding their businesses a little clearer, they'd all save a few quid on their stationery and livery too.

Name and shame.

I bet you can’t get through a day without seeing a business use that word – quite unnecessarily – at least once. (Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, of course, but even then I wouldn’t be surprised to see a disgruntled cow with ‘dairy solutions’ shaved into its side.) On your way to or from work, or at lunchtime, you’ll see a van, poster, sign or ad with ‘solutions’ letting the side down. And now you’ll question it too.

If you see a particularly ridiculous use of the word that dare not speak its name, whip out your smartphone and take a picture, then email it to me. I'll put the good ones up on a future post.