If this is the solution, what was the problem?

I hate the word solution. I really do. It’s now so over-used it has lost all its meaning. Lunch solutions? Right. That would be a sandwich then. Or how about plumbing solutions? Got it. You’re a plumber. Or spotted on a bin in Glasgow the other weekend: ‘Providing refuse solutions’.

But my favourite, seen on a website this week, ‘Contemporary quality solutions to light control’. Yes people. We are talking about a blind.

And while we’re at it turn-key is really awful as well. As is one-stop shop. And the word user. The one-stop shop for turnkey solutions for users. Good grief.

Even Wikipedia agrees. Here’s what they say.

The word solution should be confined to its use in chemistry, mathematics and problem solving. It should not be used to refer to products, services, software or a combination of these things, since such usage implies that the product or service solves the problem it is intended to solve: the word “solution” should instead be replaced by a concrete descriptive term for the type of product, such as “software”. Solution often is used simply as a buzzword that can be eliminated altogether with no loss of meaning

Dubious use:

  • “The company offers web hosting solutions for e-business…” Instead say “The company offers web hosting for e-business…” (if that is what it does).

Acceptable use:

  • “A solution of sodium chloride in water…”
  • “The solution to the chess problem involves the sacrifice of the knight…”
  • Paul Nicholson
    Posted at 16:41h, 15 July Reply

    I completely agree, working in the IT industry I notice this more and more. Then the other day I noticed it this below.


    • Sarah Turner
      Posted at 10:58h, 16 July Reply

      Hey Paul

      Euuugh Bespoke Dental Solutions. Hmmm…that would be a dentist right?


  • Clare Lynch
    Posted at 15:36h, 17 July Reply

    Today I saw some expensive-looking face cream labelled “dulness solutions” . . .

    • Sarah Turner
      Posted at 15:43h, 17 July Reply

      Oh my God. I think that be the winner. We should have some award for this.

      Andy Maslen had some crackers on Twitter this week. “Seen on my travels: lorry slogan, “Delivering enclosure solutions”. Product inside? Cupboards. More solutions. In Tesco: Meal solutions = meals. In Bhs: Bra solutions = bras (yes, really!). On truck: Drinking water solutions = water.”

      It’s a pandemic! Stop the madness.

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  • Leif Kendall
    Posted at 15:41h, 13 December Reply

    Thanks for this – just borrowing your article as ammunition to persuade a client to ditch the word ‘solutions’. It does nothing but complicate their copy!

    • Sarah Turner
      Posted at 11:19h, 15 July Reply

      Cool! I physically cringe when I read it.

  • Alastaire ALlday
    Posted at 11:09h, 15 July Reply

    Like Leif, I’ve been trying to write a “don’t use the word solution” post on my blog for weeks so I’ve got a go-to page to show my clients when they try to insist on it.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head.

  • Bad buzzword: it’s time to stop using the word “solution” | Freelance Copywriter, London, UK
    Posted at 11:56h, 15 July Reply

    […] Ink Copywriting points out a paragraph from Wikipedia’s acceptable use of English guide – The word solution should be confined […]

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    […] next. Regular readers will know that one of my major bugbears is the word “solution” when used to describe a product or a service. Usually, I fight the word wherever I see […]

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  • annemarie spencer
    Posted at 01:05h, 25 May Reply

    Husband=loneliness solution
    Restaurant – hunger solution
    Oral malignment solution-braces
    cancer solutions – this is one of the most insensitive ones ever
    there is actually a business called Paradigm Solutions (WHAT THE???)
    And my favorite-Our grading provides a solution to flat ground (grading doesn’t “solve” flat ground, so what are you saying, exactly?
    Seriously, this lazy madness has to stop

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