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The 8 most over-used words in Internet governance

Published on 12 November 2010
Updated on 05 April 2024

In Internet governance parlance, some words and terms are used over and over again – ad nauseum. Read through the IGF transcripts, for example, and you’ll know what I mean.

I’ve made a rough list of such words and I’m wondering whether the people who use them realise how over-used some words are. Are they used on purpose, to make the speaker/author/blogger sound complex, forward-looking, and impressive? Or are they deliberately used to fill in the silence and convey as little meaning as possible?

Below is my list of the 8 most over-used terms which have by now attracted more than their fair share of attention.

Can you think of similar words to add to this list? Post them below.

  1. The way forward. Which way is this? Unless one is specific as to whether this takes us north, south, east or west, ‘the way forward’ is as useful as a weather-vane in a hurricane. This pointless form of direction tries to make us undertake an abstract journey of grand ideas which will yield all the solutions we’re looking for. Used on its own, however, it leads nowhere.
  2. 2. Raising awareness. There will always be illegal content, criminal activities, far-reaching decisions, and other facts which the world should be aware of. When we simply plan on raising awareness, no one will get to know about anything, unless we also organise campaigns for schoolchildren, hold talks with parents, gather decision-makers to discuss policy, and run local campaigns for the public.  
  3. Strategy. This is as vague as the term preceding it, especially if we’re continuously studying to devise long-term strategies to serve our overall organisational strategy of being strategically at the forefront. Haven’t we devised enough research-backed strategy already? It’s high time we start implementing it.
  4. Under review/being reviewed/will be reviewed shortly. The reviewing process can be a strategically very long period. We’re always being told that a sound review ensures better outcomes. But when will Parliament conclude that long-winding review that will see an important piece of legislation solidly in place? Or when will government conclude reviewing the literature before taking a decision?
  5. Collaboration. So let’s agree to collaborate. Let’s announce our collaboration, too! On its own, ‘collaboration’ is another of those terms which doesn’t say much, other than the fact that there might be an agreement of some sort between the two. It could be very useful to learn how two or more individuals, institutions, and so on, intend to put their networking efforts to good use.
  6. Engage. We’re constantly attempting to engage stakeholders, youth, young children, minorities, and whoever else we feel is ‘disengaged’. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m quite lost as to what happens when someone is ‘engaged’. What is the ‘engaged’ party meant to do next? Inviting stakeholders to the discussion, or asking young people whether they think chatrooms are safe, is more like it.
  7. Aims, objectives, principles, and issues, when used in the same sentence. Unless they’re defined and explained in clear terms, all these terms do is fill up empty space with empty words. And add to the word count.
  8. Last but not least: the word ‘thing’. It’s used mainly in spoken English, not written, I hear you say. And you’re right. But in some cases, it looks like we’re at a big loss for words. Wouldn’t following IGF sessions, for example, be more worthwhile and valuable if we had to replace the word ‘thing’ for more specific words of action in at least half of the (far too many) occurrences? Run a word search on any of the transcripts, and pass your own judgment.

Can you think of similar words to add to this list? Post them below. We promise to update the list from time to time.

2 replies
  1. Larry Luxner
    Larry Luxner says:

    I think the word “stakeholder” is WAY overused, and you used it yourself three or four times in your little essay. What the hell does this word really mean? As an editor, I’m sick of deleting it from writers’ articles. It says nothing. Unless you mean “shareholder” — as in one who actually owns shares in a company — let’s agree to ban it from our vocabulary forever!

  2. Irj Jol
    Irj Jol says:

    Interesting comment. You could take it one step further by making a list of ‘filler words’ that speakers use. I stopped counting when one prominent business representative at IGF recently used ‘right’ 13 times in one intervention. e.g. We all know, right, that consumers want a dependable service, right? ‘Basically’ is also another common one. Then there’s the unfortunate ‘to tell the truth’, or ‘to be perfectly honest’ – when I hear this, it makes me wonder if everything said up until this declaration has been less than truthful! My favourite is ‘realistically speaking’, followed by US sports metaphors – ballpark figure, touch base, step up to the plate. One interesting exercise is to ask someone to listen carefully to you speaking and identify the filler words you use… once you’re aware of them, you’ll start noticing just how often you use them and just how much they detract from the message you’re sending.


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