What is a “solution”?

The Oxford Dictionary of English defines “solution” as:

“A means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation … [or] the correct answer to a puzzle”

However it is the word that lazy writers reach for when describing any product or service. Perhaps they think it sounds more attractive. Here’s an example from a press release I received last month:

Worcester, UK, 6th December 2005 ­ Sunbelt System Software, the leading provider of Windows system administration tools and enterprise security solutions, today announced that Vigil Software, today announces that according to its latest SunPoll survey, the majority of organisations would prefer best-of-breed security solutions for each module.

Let’s ignore the duplicate ‘announcements’ and translate it into English:

“In a survey, Sunbelt System Software found that a large majority of companies wanted the best security systems they could get, even if they weren’t all from the same supplier.” (As an aside, is this a big surprise to anyone?)

In other words: “best-of-breed security solutions” = “good security.”

My recommendation is that any time you are tempted to use the word “solution” think hard about what it actually means and then say it as if you were trying to explain it in conversation to your friends in a coffee shop. Eliminate the cliché and strengthen your message.

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