Bad Business Jargon To Banish From Your Vocabulary Immediately


William Arruda, Contributor

August 17, 2015

Every culture has its own vocabulary, but the words and phrases created in the modern workplace are often hollow, shallow, or mind-numbingly boring. You don’t want your business communications to sound like a script from “The Office.” Jargon has never been valuable. Today, it is unacceptable. We are living in a time when transparency and authenticity are finally being respected. There is no place in this new world of work for conformist phrases or words that scream imitation instead of differentiation. Yet it’s hard to break the habit. I tried for a week – and it was painful. I couldn’t believe how easily these creativity killers unconsciously slipped off my tongue.

So I reached out to many of my friends and colleagues in the business world for their opinions on the worst, most annoying and overused business jargon. I compiled the list and share it with you below – in alphabetical order. At the end of the list, I’ll present you with two challenges.

Here’s the list:

9th Inning

Action item

All hands

All hands on deck

At the end of the day

Back of the envelope

Baked in

Best practice

Bleeding edge

Boil the ocean




Bring to the table


C-level or C-suite

Circle back

Core competency

Cover your ass (CYA)

Deep dive

Dirty laundry

Drill down

Drink the Kool-Aid


Face time

Fighting fires

Former life

Game plan


Get our ducks in a row

Grease the skids

Heads up

Herding cats

Hunker down

In the weeds

Jockey for position




Low-hanging fruit


Move the needle


Open the kimono

Pain points

Pass the smell test


Push the envelope

Put your finger in the wind

Ramp up

Run it up the flagpole


Take it offline

Think outside the box

Touch base


Value add


Window of opportunity

That list may not include all the junk words we hear in business, but it represents a lot of the most egregious words and phrases. If reading them made you cringe, here are two challenges to invigorate your vocabulary.

1 – Personal Challenge: Measure your own jargon habit. For one week, keep a diary of all the times you use (or almost use) these words or other business jargon from  your own list of the most annoying. Bring your diary to meetings. Use it when you’re writing emails, on the phone and preparing documents. Then decide which words and phrases you want to permanently remove. Practice replacing them with your own words or phrases that are more meaningful and relevant.

2 – Group Challenge: Make your next meeting more interesting and less predictable. Get all participants to agree to remove a set of deadly dull words or phrases for the entire meeting. Identify the most annoying business jargon you hear all the time at your workplace. Then put the complete verboten list on a white board (or send them in advance for teleconferences and web conferences). Next, assign someone as the jargon catcher whose role is to record every instance of the utterance of those words. To make it even more fun, you can have a buzzer that gets rung every time someone uses one of these words. Or have a contest and reward the person who uses the fewest. Make note of the fresh, precise words or phrases you use to replace this common jargon.

If you’re interested in building an authentic, strong and compelling personal brand, create your own business vocabulary. Jargon is bad for your brand! Come up with your own way of speaking instead of chaining yourself to the “standard operating procedures” of business communication. Say what you mean, and say it with style.

The list above is by no means exhaustive. Share with me and other readers the words and phrases you think are overused and annoying via comments.

Learn more about your personal brand so you can use words and expressions that help reinforce your message. Download my complete list of 50 eye-opening questions to ask yourself when uncovering your brand here.

This article was written by William Arruda from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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