Exquisite. Robust. Granular.

When I first met my new creative director, I asked him which words he hates.

Most writers loathe at least one word. Sometimes we can explain why; other times it’s more visceral. I used to feel a little silly about the latter, but now I just accept it as an occupational hazard.

Anyway … I knew Rick and I would get along just fine when he listed his three most-hated words: Exquisite. Robust. Granular.

I used to like robust. It was a wonderful euphemism when fat seemed too blunt. “No, your dog isn’t obese. He’s robust.” Or, “oh, my goodness, what a robust little baby.”

But then the corporate ditto-heads started using it. Their software features became “robust.” So did their org charts and their capabilities and their capital investment platforms. The word became as empty as those business-parrots’ heads.

Now I hate “robust.” It sounds pretentious and condescending. Even worse, the word has lost all meaning for me. I no longer think of a thick tree trunk when I hear it. Now I think of a guy in a suit who desperately wants to sound smart.

Unfortunately, using a particular word doesn’t make you sound smart. Having good ideas makes you sound smart.

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