60 small business buzzwords

Business Buzzwords You Should Delete From Your Vocabulary Immediately

Felicia Sullivan and Jack Fehr

Imagine visiting a foreign country and struggling to express yourself because you don’t know the language. A simple request for directions becomes an animated affair; the experience is frustrating because you lack the basic vocabulary for connection. Now, imagine that scenario in the workplace.

Effective business leaders have the ability to make the complex simple, in part by choosing their words to deliver maximum impact. Yet business buzzwords have become commonplace, weaving their way into our everyday vernacular and spurring the creation of websites and software programs designed to translate corporate lingo into plain English. In some offices, clever employees place “jargon jars” in conference rooms, where colleagues have to deposit coins for every buzzword dropped during a meeting.

It’s easy to get seduced by buzzwords because we think they make us sound smart and give us the illusion that we’re in the know when it comes to the latest trends. However, they also create barriers between people, alienating employees and customers because the words they thought they knew now have a different and more obscure meaning. Who has time to hire an interpreter to translate vague corporate speak?

Clear communication, transparency, and authenticity are key to well-managed businesses, and jargon is the enemy of clarity. Most of us are guilty of using at least some of these creativity killersbut it comes at a cost: “I believe you lose credibility when you use jargon,” says Anne Bromley, writing instructor and consultant. “Jargon is boring and can make people suspicious about what you say. Give me numbers. Give me facts.”

Here are 60 cringe-worthy expressions to eliminate from your vocabulary, along with their jargon-free definitions:

  1.  A 30,000-foot view: At high altitudes, everything appears insignificant. When it comes to business, the 30,000-foot view is about focusing on the bigger goals and objectives, instead of zeroing in on the details.
  2. All hands on deck: Whenever you receive an email requesting “all hands on deck,” know you’re in for a late night at the office parked in front of takeout and the glare of your computer screen. All employees are needed to complete a project that’s on a deadline. Life preservers are optional.
  3. Analysis paralysis: Psychologist Barry Schwartz coined the term “Paradox of Choice,” where he describes the feelings of anxiety and indecision that often occur when a person is faced with too many options. Have you ever found yourself overthinking a situation so much that nothing actually gets accomplished except hours spent feeling paralyzed by your thoughts? Cue the productivity killer otherwise known as analysis paralysis.
  4. Back-end: “Back-end” borrows from computer tech speak and it means all the essential work that goes into the creation of a product that a customer doesn’t see.
  5. Bandwidth: A term popular with the tech crowd, as it refers to the volume of information per unit of time that a transmission medium (like an internet connection) can manage. In management speak, it means capacity, as in “Can you take on yet another project?”
  6. Blue ocean strategy: The origin of this phrase makes Jaws look like a Disney film. Blue ocean strategy refers to how a business can differentiate itself by creating a new market for itself instead of competing in a bloody or “red” ocean of starved sharks, i.e., a crowded marketplace. The Australian wine brand Yellow Tail adopted a clever positioning tactic when breaking into the U.S. market by removing the complexity and snobbery of wine, offering a fun, affordable alternative.
  7. Boil an ocean: Picture a saucepan as big as the Atlantic on a five-burner stove. The idiom refers to undertaking an impossible project or task. If you want a jargon pile-up of ocean metaphors, you could say that “boiling an ocean” means “going overboard.”
  8. Brick and mortar: Twenty years ago, it was inconceivable to think that you could own and operate a business that didn’t have a physical location. Enter the online store, Amazon.com, in 1994. Consider “brick and mortar” the rotary phone of business.
  9. Bring to the table: The unique skills or value that someone can bring to your company. Typically, the “table” in question refers to a physical forum for the negotiation of business proposals.
  10. Buy-in: Accepting, or committing, to an idea or course of action. The phrase originated from the financial services industry, where it bears a negative connotation. In a financial buy-in, an investor is forced to repurchase shares of stock because the seller didn’t deliver them in a timely manner or deliver them at all.
  11. Buzzworthy: Although the PR term isn’t new, it’s taken on a new form in the world of social media, where consumer currency trumps traditional media outlets talking about your product or service. Now, “buzzworthy” is about getting the people talking — online and off. Often, it’s linked with its more terrifying cousin, “going viral,” #34 on our list.
  12. Change agent: A person who is the catalyst for business improvements or innovation. “Change agents” are focused on transforming an existing organizational culture and processes, so businesses can be agile and efficient.
  13. Circle back: An invitation to revisit a project or an issue with the goal of resolution. In reality, the phrase is a procrastinator’s paradise because it allows them to buy time to figure out a solution while sounding thoughtful. After they’ve “circled back,” don’t be surprised if they want to “close the loop” on the issue, jargon-jar phrase #16.
  14. Client-facing: An idiom that is the darling of the advertising agency industry, “client-facing” references any and all forms of communication that are shared with customers. So that internal, all-company email venting about your client using internet memes? Definitely not client-facing.
  15. Close the loop: “Closing the loop” is akin to achieving an outcome to an outstanding issue. Fun fact: The phrase borrows from the field of electrical engineering, where an “open loop” represents a gap between a wire, a battery, and a light bulb. As a result, electricity doesn’t flow. A “closed loop” is when the circuit is connected and in sync.
  16. Consumer-driven: Products, plans, and strategies that are motivated by consumer demand or expectations. Ten years ago it would’ve been laughable to stay in a stranger’s home or enter their car for a ride; however, advanced mobile technology, coupled with consumer demand for efficiency, has made companies like Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber possible and profitable.
  17. Core competency: A fundamental strength or advantage that differentiates an individual or company from its competitors.
  18. Cutting edge: By definition, “cutting edge” means the edge of a tool’s blade. However, in corporate speak, the blade’s sharpness implies the pioneering, or advancement, of a business idea, process, or technology.
  19. Deck: While we want to believe that spending time on a deck is a refuge from our overflowing email inbox, sadly, a “deck” in business parlance is shorthand for a set of PowerPoint presentation slides.
  20. Deep dive: The opposite of the “30,000-foot view,” a deep dive means a complete immersion into the details. No scuba gear required.
  21. Deliverable: Embedded in corporate speak for the past 25 years, “deliverable” hasn’t become any less vague or unbearable. Deliverable refers to a piece of work that can be delivered, such as a project plan, report, or product.
  22. Disconnect (used as a noun): A situation where expectations differ from reality, due to either a misunderstanding or difference of opinion.
  23. Disruptive: Perhaps Silicon Valley’s most overused buzzword. Tech and startup giants refer to the process of simplifying, uprooting, or replacing existing technology with the new and innovative, in hopes of attracting hungry investors. iTunes shifted the way consumers get their music; DVDs replaced videocassettes.
  24. Drill down: Whether it’s used in construction, computers, or business-speak, drilling down involves the in-depth examination of information to get more details.
  25. Drinking the Kool-Aid: Here’s a horrifying fact: “Drinking the Kool-Aid” originated from the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, where famed cult leader, Jim Jones, forced his 900 followers to commit mass suicide by drinking cyanide-laced punch. Today, the cult stigma has been downplayed to mean the blind following of a corporate culture, philosophy, or way of business.
  26. Elephant in the room: The obvious issue everyone’s aware of, but no one wants to talk about.
  27. Engagement: The marketing phrase of the moment, engagement refers to the act of consumers’ connecting with a company’s product or message in a meaningful way.
  28. Face time: In an age where it’s acceptable for people to exchange emails and texts within a few feet of one another, the act of talking to someone in person has become downright nostalgic. “Face time” accounts for time away from our devices to connect and communicate in-person.
  29. Front-end: The flip side of “back-end,” “front end” means all the components of a product that’s visible to the consumer. For example, reading this article is an example of the front-end of Small Biz Ahead, while the code that makes everything on this page function in the way it’s supposed to would be its back-end.
  30. Game plan: A strategy or course of action.
  31. Getting our ducks in a row: The act of getting all the details organized before the start of a project. The phrase was first used in 1932 in an article about getting “our economic ducks in a row”, but it’s commonly attributed to the formation of a mother duck’s offspring into a single line before traveling.
  32. Going forward: A relatively new development in corporate speak, “going forward” is supposed to imply a sense of corporate direction or purpose. In reality, it’s a fancy way to indicate the progression of time. You could easily say “next,” “in the future,” or “from now on.”
  33. Going viral: With the exception of “budget cuts,” no other phrase elicits more fear and terror in your marketing team. A content contagion, going viral refers to how fast a piece of content can spread across the internet.
  34. Hack (used as a noun): A shortcut — an easier or ingenious way to complete an activity.
  35. Heads-up: An advanced warning that something in the near future will require attention.
  36. Heavy lifting: Bearing the burden of the most difficult and time-consuming work on a project.
  37. Ideate: Who knew that the startup community could abuse a word so much as to make it a non-word? The mind-numbing term “ideate” is the act of forming an idea.
  38. In the weeds: The feeling of struggling, being overwhelmed, or losing control at work because of being too involved in the minutiae.
  39. Killing it: There’s no shortage of war metaphors in business, and “killing it” is no exception. Synonymous with another jargon-jar phrase, “at the top of your game,” killing it implies that people are doing their best work.
  40. Leverage: This noun-as-a-verb refers to how a situation can be manipulated and controlled in one’s favor. Example: “We’re leveraging our best assets.” English Translation: “We’re using our best people for the project.”
  41. Low-hanging fruit: A phrase that secured pinnacle cliché status in the late 1990s, “low-hanging fruit” refers to easy business wins achieved with minimal effort.
  42. Mission-critical: Not to be confused with astronauts at NASA, mission-critical means the elements vital to the functioning or success of an organization.
  43. Move the goalposts: Changing the parameters midway through the project.
  44. Move the needle: A staple when pitching venture capitalists, “moving the needle” implies how your product and business strategy surpasses that of your competitors. The phrase dates back to old-school Vu (volume unit) meters used in audio recordings. The louder the sound, the further the needle moved.
  45. Ninja, Rockstar, Wizard: From job descriptions to LinkedIn profiles, hoards of people are adapting these magical and mythic monikers — all variations of people who are great at what they do.
  46. Omni-channel: The concept of having your product or service in every possible place — whether it’s a catalog, physical store location, website, or advertisements on a mobile device — where your potential customer resides.
  47. Onboarding: The process of assimilating a new employee into an organization or introducing your product or service to new customers.
  48. On your radar: To bring awareness to your product, situation, or service.
  49. Opening the kimono: The act of revealing important information or the inner workings of an organization. This rather offensive term refers to a Japanese wife showing her naked body to her husband.
  50. Out of pocket: When the out-of-office auto-responder email fails to resonate, when someone says they’re out-of-pocket it means they are unreachable, even by mobile phone.
  51. Paradigm shift: Coined by the American philosopher, Thomas Kuhn, “paradigm shift” has trickled down to corporate speak, implying a fundamental change in the usual or accepted ways of doing business.
  52. Pivot: Blame entrepreneur Eric Reis (author of The Lean Startup) who reinvented the term “pivot” for the startup community. “Pivot” refers to a shift in business strategy or direction.
  53. Ramp up: To increase over a period of time, often used interchangeably with “getting up to speed.”
  54. Red flag: A warning of potential problems that require immediate attention.
  55. Rightsizing: An HR term that aims to soften the layoff blow, “rightsizing” means reducing the size of a company or organization through eliminating staff or restructuring.
  56. Scalable: The ability for a company to grow its business with little additional cost.
  57. Socialize: The practice of relentlessly exposing a new idea or process to the point of being unbearable…or simply the creation of a new norm.
  58. Takeaway: The key point of a meeting or interaction. Basically, people talk for a while and then take a way one fact.
  59. Touch base: An invitation to meet or talk about a specific issue.
  60. Value-add: A feature that provides benefits or value to your customers.

As a small business owner, you don’t need to rely on big business speak. By communicating clearly, you help ensure that everyone you work with knows exactly what you’re asking for. In general, say what you mean without the unnecessary wordplay. Your customers and employees will understand you, and your business will be better for it.

Next Steps: You’re busy. We get it. So why not let us do some work for you? By signing up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter, you’ll receive hand-picked articles, How-Tos and videos covering the latest in small biz tools and trends. We’ll do the research while you spend your time where it counts: managing and growing your business.

117 Responses to "Business Buzzwords You Should Delete From Your Vocabulary Immediately"
    • Georgia | March 29, 2022 at 4:15 pm

      I particularly don’t like buzzwords taken from aviation and the maritime world. Also, “Pulling the trigger” is extremely offensive. If a person has been a soldier or otherwise threatened with a gun like I have, “Pulling the trigger” means violence and possibly death.

      • Small Biz Ahead | March 30, 2022 at 10:46 am

        Thank you for the comment and sharing your experiences, Georgia!

    • Mike Collins | July 22, 2020 at 3:46 pm

      Another one I never like to see: Insurance (and other biz entities) companies keep telling me they are providing “enhancements” to their website to make living/breathing/working SO MUCH easier…………..ahhhhhh, not really. More time learning ABOUT the so called enhancements, confusion over where to find stuff that took less than a minute to find; plus, then I have to ‘reach out’ to some techie who doesn’t know anything about the actual business of insurance.

    • David Goding | March 9, 2020 at 9:12 pm

      Silly article. We use these phrases for a reason. Why not say don’t overuse them, like every other phrase in the English language. Catch my drift. There, now I won’t use that one again on this forum for the next couple months.

    • GUY | February 24, 2020 at 6:50 pm

      My first reaction is who decided these are outmoded and second what is the criteria used to decide?

      One of your criteria is that these buzz words may irritate or turn someone off. that is not a good reason to stop using them. it is possible the buzz word/phrase hit the mark. Someone may be irritated or turned off because they are not performing. These are personal problems.

      Here is one of my favorites; “You only catch flack when you are over the target.” You may want run this one through your criteria and add to the list as well.

    • Chris B Thayer | February 20, 2020 at 11:38 pm

      Many of the phrases come from previous times and experiences. The inability to understand those references and contexts comes largely from the lack of broad cultural exposure and interest. Although it is difficult to keep abreast of the latest terms and expressions because our world is expanding so rapidly, having a better understanding of our past shouldn’t be so.
      Phrases like “wheelhouse” and “hands on deck” are quite familiar to older generations and particularly to folks with military experience. The phrases were grounded in real activity. The pseudoterms like “killing it,” “hack,” and especially “ideate” bring to mind an incompetent and insecure speaker attempting to inflate his image … If you can’t dazzle with brilliance, baffle with BS.
      Some of these have colorful backstory that it would do the reader well to learn to understand.

    • Susan V. Hage | February 15, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      Exactly what percentage of “small businesses” do you think are “brick and mortar” ? How many business owners did you just insult? I can’t imagine using the term without actually signifying a structural business. Would saying it be a put down to an e-commerce company? Would saying it out date a company, thus make it less competitive or attractive? In what context is the phrase “brick and mortar”, something to avoid?
      If a business owner is actually “brick and mortar”,they have something to be proud of, within their community. They support wholesale and retail commerce, landlords, utilities, taxes, and insurance companies. They are the network behind small towns.

    • Randall M Trembly | February 13, 2020 at 10:16 pm

      Did I miss “been there done that”.

    • Patrick S | February 13, 2020 at 5:13 pm

      How about the excessive use of the words “literally” and “obviously”?

    • Dave Cook | February 12, 2020 at 6:18 pm

      What about “table stakes”? I hear it all of the time now.

    • Drake J. | February 12, 2020 at 6:16 pm

      Can’t we all just get along. Maybe yes, maybe no!

    • Just Jon | February 12, 2020 at 4:24 pm

      Hackneyed terms and phrases are the crutch of pedestrian thoughts and a prosaic vocabulary. They hit my ear like discordant tones; indicating there’ll be nothing of interest forthcoming.

    • SUSAN BIRD | February 12, 2020 at 2:57 pm

      Great article and great conversation. Maybe adjust the title? Thanks for writing it.

    • Holly Duggan | February 12, 2020 at 2:34 pm

      Cautiously Optimistic, Reach Out, Touch base, any wheelhouse reference.

    • Ira Spiro | February 12, 2020 at 1:13 pm

      These words are used not only inside businesses, but in communicating with people in general, and when that happens, they create lots of misunderstanding, or just plain head-scratching, or revulsion in people who don’t like mangling of English. I owned a small business, a law firm, for 15 years, and we did very well without any of these phrases, and very little legalese.

      Here’s an example of how this sort of thing fails to communicate, a post on this very list:

      “Sorry to report but many of these words and phrases are common amongst Senior Leaders, Management and on the front lines. Do the authors have any suggestions or alternatives to get the message across? As an example, ‘scalable’ is a key term in most businesses, I would think.”

      What are the front lines? I sure don’t know. One person wrote that many of these terms have been in use by the military for a long time, so does that mean troops on the battlefield? Even if front lines is something in business, not the military, what or who is it? Just the people who deal with customers or the public? All the people doing the work?

      Who are “Senior Leaders?” Business leaders over 60? I’m not kidding, that’s what I first thought when I read it, (along with leaders of people over 60). Yes, they could be executives in businesses, but they could also be people who aren’t even employed in any business but have a lot of business experience, or claim to be experts. And why are they, and “Management” honored with capitalization?

      Instead of “scalable,” isn’t a person a whole lot more likely to be understood by using something more precise, just a few words, like “readily expanded” or maybe “readily expanded or contracted”?

      P.S. Is there any reason to say “amongst” rather than “among,” the word that I think was nearly always used until a year or two ago, when “amongst” started an infection among large numbers of people?

    • Sunny Jim | February 12, 2020 at 12:58 pm

      Organic! Personally cringe-worthy.

    • Garth | February 12, 2020 at 11:51 am

      How about “sustainable” or sustainability” This is a big one in the architecture business and “green”or “eco” discussions. When asked for a definition of these words no one could give one.

    • Adrian Lund | February 12, 2020 at 11:24 am

      I think both the defenders and attackers of these jargon terms are correct: the terms are both useful and abused. The phrases are nice summary statements of goals which one wants to achieve. The problem is that, without context, they are meaningless. A leader needs to express the goal – “close the loop” – but then follow by saying what loop is being closed and who and how he/she wants it closed. Even within a given field, there are many loops and loops within loops. If a manager simply says we need to close the loop, there will be some in the group who don’t know which loop or how they are involved.

      Similarly, because it is generally recognized that having specific “deliverables” and “managing expectations” are good places to be, those terms can be used to frame a discussion – set the goals of the discussion. However, the discussion then needs to clarify those deliverables and indicate what employees might be doing to allow expectations to surpass reasonable progress. In other words, use the terms to set the goals but then make sure every employee knows what he/she is supposed to do to achieve that goal. Without that context, these phrases are as empty and annoying as the article claims.

      • Chloe Silverman | February 12, 2020 at 1:16 pm

        Thank you for the comment, Adrian!

    • Thomas P | February 12, 2020 at 11:07 am

      Congratulations to Felicia and Jack (the authors)!!! You have succeeded in starting a robust CONVERSATION among experienced readers. I enjoyed the comments of those who agreed and those who disagreed.

      Unfortunately, conversation among people who have a different perspective has greatly deteriorated in the United States. I learned from each person who responded whether they agreed or disagreed.

      Thank you to all who replied. I will watch my “catch phrases” to ensure that i am not over using them, while keeping a consistent, simple message in my work place.

    • Anita Miller | February 12, 2020 at 10:51 am

      Interesting article. I’m now retired and have probably used most of these phrases. You know, “been there, done that.” Yeah, you can add that one to the list, too. The comments were just as entertaining. One of my favorites, “what’s a paradigm? 20 cents.”

    • Mike | February 12, 2020 at 10:47 am

      Kindly stop telling strangers what you think they should do (delete these specific words from your vocabulary) and what you believe they should not say (60 cringe-worthy expressions). If the phrases mentioned bother you, feel free to stop using them. However, everyone else should continue to make their own decision(s). Personally, I do not appreciate these types of “lists” urgently telling others what to say, wear, eat, do, not do. Thankfully, we are not all the same.

    • Bruce | February 12, 2020 at 10:20 am

      Here are some “cringe-worthy” words and phrases for y’all to ponder: sustainable, inclusive, empowered, green, begs the question, existential threat, and, lord help me, “smart” this and that.

      And it really irritates me when people call a simple “tip” on how to perform a task more easily or faster a “hack” like it’s some “drop the mike” moment. Oh yeah, what’s up with “drop the mike”? It’s like watching some nerd yell “Q.E.D.!” Not.

    • Gio | February 12, 2020 at 10:03 am

      Where is the evidence, data, or study that proves or at least indicates these expressions undermine effective communication or small business success??? The authors advise through the quote of a “writing instructor and consultant” (who likely knows very little about the business world) that “Jargon is boring and can make people suspicious about what you say. Give me numbers. Give me facts.” So, give us “numbers” and “facts” that support your claims. Otherwise, this is just an op-ed piece from an unsupported position.

    • Christopher Bell | February 12, 2020 at 10:03 am

      Another one I’d like to add to the list is “at the end of the day.”

    • Terry Hillick | February 12, 2020 at 10:00 am

      “You guys”….

    • PT | February 12, 2020 at 9:54 am

      Some of these can be retired. Some, however, still hold a slight bit of relevance. The only reason I say this is because I think of myself as a 48-year-old millennial.

    • Paul Doster | February 12, 2020 at 9:46 am

      The word “sustainable” is not only overused (at least here in the restaurant business) but not able to be defined by those who use it. Much like the “Farm to Table” moniker attached to many restaurants to suggest a fresher product, a much overused term, “sustainable” has become another buzz word in our industry by a generation believing that if they use the word it shall be true.

    • Ken Porter | February 12, 2020 at 9:00 am

      I’m not sure what everyone is producing in all of their meetings, while spewing this Jargon, but when they begin sitting at their virtual desk, in their virtual office chair, talking on their virtual phone, while drinking virtual coffee, we’ll pull the plug (oops!) on our Bricks and Mortar businesses. If you are not producing something, you aren’t producing anything. It will catch up to us.

    • Brad | February 12, 2020 at 8:17 am

      Wow! If I’d only known about this “change strategy” I wouldn’t have had to learn all those silly terms that the military taught me in order to do my job. I could have use countless other words to convey my thoughts and feelings on an order I had been given. By all means, lets rid ourselves of common language in order to accommodate those that are unwilling to grasp their meaning. Some of these are overused—So what! “I’m tired of that ‘buzzword'” does not mean that it is not understood. Leave the differentiation to your marketing department. Maybe they can get you out of the “red water”.

    • Jonathan Karalekas | February 12, 2020 at 8:16 am

      So basically you talk about nothing, and nothing gets done.. good luck running your business

    • Tim Riecker | February 12, 2020 at 7:08 am

      This is a great list. Having worked in government for 12 years and as a consultant for ten, these words are constantly swirling around. I find a great many of them totally annoying and have managed to avoid all but a few myself. I think a lot of the haters in the comments have unfortunately bought in to jargon and are likely unwilling to speak like a real person.

      • Chloe Silverman | February 12, 2020 at 8:39 am

        Thank you for reading!

    • Shay | February 12, 2020 at 1:15 am

      I used to speak Japanese a bit and believe that kimono is a gender-neutral word in Japanese. How did the authors determine the original meaning of “opening the Kimono”? Are they just guessing? Inventing Or is that its established American meaning?

    • Bob M. | February 12, 2020 at 12:21 am

      What I like about this post, and even more, about the comments, is that it (and they) remind me that I need to stop being judgemental about people based on the words they use.

      We can’t all be poets. We didn’t all go to incredible schools that instilled in us a rich vocabulary. Most of us are just trying to be liked, be successful at our jobs and find a measure of happiness in our few years on earth.

      It’s fun to be snarky about people who “don’t talk good”. It really helps boost our ego when our own self esteem is less than perfect (and whose isn’t?) But hopefully we can find it in ourselves to grow a little, and embrace the warts that every one of us has. Learn to listen past the cliches and hear the person.

    • Marc | February 12, 2020 at 12:07 am

      Some of the items on the list are spot on useful and some are irritating. The appropriateness of each of these phrases depends on your specific industry, your management level and your age. As usual, such lists are entertaining oversimplifications. Successful entrepreneurs (not corporate conformists) use the language they want and if it works (and is legal and ethical), they will continue to use the phrases that work well for them (us).

      • Chloe Silverman | February 12, 2020 at 8:38 am

        Thank you for the feedback, Marc.

    • Tom | February 11, 2020 at 11:46 pm

      Over used and vague:
      “Best-Practices” can be added to this dreary list of dried up terms

    • Mike Silverman | February 11, 2020 at 11:44 pm

      Three phrases that get over-used and abused to death are -“not my first rodeo”, “at the end of the day”, and “punching above one’s weight”. Let’s retire these.

      • Chloe Silverman | February 12, 2020 at 8:37 am

        Haha 🙂 Thank you for the comment!

    • Paul Jeffko | February 11, 2020 at 11:42 pm

      I say “brain dead” for the authors. Is it okay if I call the sky “blue”, or the outlook “promising”?

    • Mitch | February 11, 2020 at 11:21 pm

      Someone failed at Management 101: Don’t present a (59) problem(s) without a (59 or so) solution(s).

    • Dean Norton | February 11, 2020 at 11:01 pm

      Glad I clicked on the list. I generally ignore anything that follows the unnecessary words “Please be advised that”

      • Chloe Silverman | February 12, 2020 at 8:36 am

        Thank you for the comment!

    • Rob | February 11, 2020 at 10:56 pm

      Laughing that in the same email you used the term “incentivize” in the title of an article about cell phone use. Really?

    • CG | February 11, 2020 at 10:41 pm

      lean in, swim lanes, hard wired, 360, fierce, beast, take ownership, touch base

    • Doug Boswell | February 11, 2020 at 10:38 pm

      You are wrong about #38. That is definitely not what it means. I’d tell you, but who cares? This was just a list of all the buss words/phrases the author could think of. Most are not in need of retirement. Why do I keep falling for click-bait? Oh, that one’s not on the list either. Maybe it’s the missing #2.

    • Glenn Hartshorn | February 11, 2020 at 10:37 pm

      Look, “the bottom line” is number 2 went “awol”. It was after 9 pm and the “sidewalk rolled up”. While the writers’ “core competency” was “drinking the kool-aid” of most tech company’s “best pracrices”; they failed to “raise the bar” or “take it to the next level”!

    • Montrealais | February 11, 2020 at 10:26 pm


      Dangerously close to total BS, but oh-so-important BS.

    • Mike D | February 11, 2020 at 10:22 pm

      Unless you’re going to provide a “say this instead of that article this should just be titled. Common business sayings.

    • Shaun Dagon | August 18, 2019 at 8:27 pm

      Wow! Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.

      • Chloe Silverman | August 19, 2019 at 8:22 am

        Thank you for the comment, Shaun!

    • Waas Porter | June 29, 2019 at 8:53 pm

      Love this list. I would add “actionable.”

    • Mary | June 25, 2019 at 11:59 pm

      Without data to substantiate the authors allegations, I don’t support eliminating most of theses words. Every business has acceptable terminology.

    • Stilley | June 24, 2019 at 4:09 pm

      Ok, one more for good measure. If you must use catch phrases for everything it is much like our interaction with one another–very detached. These “catch phrases” are a lazy way of interacting providing the minimum you can offer that you hope others will not ask for more. If you ask for more description then you are obviously paying attention and your need to know what they are talking about are not being met with such a catchy little phrase. Much like our interactions today. We spend more time with our technology that we are beginning to behave like our electronic equipment. A lack of true engagement and caring. It is like we cannot be bothered with having a normal exchange of ideas. Yes, I was born before the computers became popular and for that I am thankful because I have a greater understanding of what is being missed in our conversations today. Our relationships with one another. How often do you find yourself emailing a basic note to someone 20 times a day who is just on the other side of your door rather than walking out and talking with them?

    • Stilley | June 24, 2019 at 4:02 pm

      While there are some listed above others are my pet peeve. The catch all “at risk”. If you use this term around me then you had better explain what someone is at risk of and from in detail. Another is “under served” when it is used as a blanket term it should be detailed what services are they lacking that need to be addressed. Those are catch terms that have been my nemeses for years and yet they are continuing to be used without explanation. My preference is basic terminology not fearing to explain your situation or plan of action. How else are you able to clearly show others your vision or your purpose? When one leads a group of unsuspecting people to follow a vision that is not with a good outcome they are like one Lemming leading a herd off a cliff to their death. That is descriptive.

    • Sandra | June 24, 2019 at 7:16 am

      If you’re doing international business, this may have some merit. But for the most part I disagree that these words will “create barriers between people, alienating employees and customers” .
      What data do you have to support your claims?

    • Craig Christensen | June 20, 2019 at 8:19 am

      “Reach out”, mentioned several times in the comments and I agree the worst phrase ever. When someone uses it I throw them out.

    • Tara Browne | June 20, 2019 at 8:12 am

      I always read articles like this to help raise my awareness of the jargon I use. That said, many of these phrases are useful as a form of conversational shorthand; I have almost NEVER seen one that suggests how else we might express these concepts without being ridiculously (and pointlessly) wordy.

      I think the problem comes not in using these phrases, per se, but in relying on them to imply acumen, intentions, and/or competence that we don’t actually have.

    • Greg | June 20, 2019 at 12:18 am

      What about “moving forward,” and its variants “going forward” and “on a go-forward basis,” such as “We’ll do that moving forward.”? Who moves backward in business, or at least plans to move backward.

    • Glen Ward | June 19, 2019 at 3:08 pm

      I don’t agree. Most of these are buzz phrases. The buzz “phrases” mentioned in this article are useful as heck because they are as descriptive as full sentences without all the fill in wording that slows down discussions. All languages progress. It seems like the people getting things done in this country should be leading the progression. Another missed one is “We may have to “lift our skirts” to get this job” (similar to Kimono above).

    • Refi | June 19, 2019 at 2:45 pm

      58: “Basically”. “Basically” is one to add to the “remove from your vocabulary” list. Also:
      in 58: “. . . and then take a way” you mean: “take away” as in take something with you, not “take a way” as in take a new way home. Also “Buzzwords” – used in the title, buzzwords is another overused, tired term to remove from your vocabulary, along with “It is what it is”.

    • Matt | June 19, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      “Managing expectations” also needs to be defenestrated. When I first heard it, I had no idea what it meant. As an individual contributor I don’t see where the onus is on me to “manage expectations.” Isn’t that what project managers are for?

    • Matt | June 19, 2019 at 2:15 pm

      Another one that should be stricken from the language: “managing expectations.” As an individual contributor I always resented that the burden was on me to “manage expectations” of those for whom we were doing work. Isn’t that a project manager’s job,? ‘Way above my pay grade, sorry.

    • Jfa | June 19, 2019 at 2:02 pm

      I agree with the idea that the terms listed are nothing more than business shorthand, an efficient way to get your point across without reducing one to boredom while one belabors a point with detailed information the ‘gist’ of which is already known. Just as important, know your audience and if it includes culturally diverse members be careful with the shorthand.

    • Jill L Ross | June 19, 2019 at 1:22 pm

      The problem, in my opinion, is not the words themselves, it’s the use of them uncritically.
      Closing the loop – when you really are talking about making sure that all who need to know, hear, understand, or be involved have been brought in makes sense and it’s reasonable (potentially beneficial) to remind ourselves we move in systems and as such need to be vigilant about breaks our circuits, so to speak.

      “Buzzwords,” become such when we use them carelessly, without concern as to whether they actually relay what we really mean, whether those who hear them actually hear what we think we said. It makes sense to create and use language specific to our own disciplines, industries, etc. It’s ‘jargon’ (with all the negative connotations) when it’s used not as shorthand for those who share our understanding, but to impress, gate-keep, gloss over, or avoid work to understand or convey an important complexity.

      Finally, just as it’s good communication and business practice to say what we mean, check that others hear what we intended to say, it’s also important to notice our own assumptions. For example, “all hands on deck” does not necessarily mean “a night in front of a computer.” In some businesses it means a night pouring oil to get the soap made, keeping the woodstove going to heat the inn and keep the pipes from freezing.

      My two cents.

    • Robin Sky | June 19, 2019 at 1:09 pm

      You forgot “Quick Question”. People walk into my office and call me all day long with a “quick question”.
      I want to scream. It may be quick coming out of their mouth, but the answer it requires from me isn’t usually quick. It’s like nails on a chalkboard!

    • Ed | June 19, 2019 at 12:01 pm

      As much as I often chuckle when hearing some of these, I have to mostly disagree with the authors. Most of these terms are succinct. Why not use “deliverable” as opposed to “a work product that must be delivered”? Languages are dynamic, and vocabularies expand. I only dislike when word changes are deemed acceptable due constant ignorance/misuse. A recent example of this is how people [mis]use the word “hopefully”. The powers that be recently allowed it to be used in the manner people have been intending for the last couple of decades – “hopeful that…” as opposed to the adverb it clearly is. Whatevs.

      In any event, if you’re in a particular line of business it is incumbent on you to learn relevant concepts, processes and – gee, I don’t know – terms/phrases commonly used/understood in said line of business. Keep up, people.

    • Suzette | June 19, 2019 at 11:11 am

      I think my company regularly uses about 15 of these…. It would have been nice for you to include a substitute word or phrase to help improve communication. In my experience, it helps for the company’s leadership to actually foster relationships so that they learn to use effective words in their communication. Sometimes the problem is that leadership doesn’t know the people they are trying to manage or communicate to. I feel blessed in that regard for working in a school with a very healthy culture that feels like a family – sometimes a better family than actual family.

    • Simon | June 19, 2019 at 10:52 am

      I agree that “reach out” should be on that list. It seems that reps are the primary culprit.

    • Richard Lovesky | June 19, 2019 at 10:01 am

      Anyone else tired of people “reaching out”? I’ve heard it said 3 times in 1 sentence. ENOUGH!

    • Carol Stafford | June 19, 2019 at 9:48 am

      How could you not include the unbelievably annoying “reach out”?

    • Ellen | June 19, 2019 at 9:30 am

      “…it is far more important to leverage the necessary term that conveys the message in a clear and concise manner.” *snort* How do you leverage a term?

      Another example of corporate-speak is using the verb “unpack,” in a context that doesn’t involve emptying a suitcase. “Unpack the deck,” anyone?

    • Linda Ingram | June 19, 2019 at 9:18 am

      “High Level” annoys me.

    • Burns | June 19, 2019 at 8:19 am

      I find communication and other facets of life similar to fashion. Every generation wants to make their societal mark. Regardless of the expressions used, it is far more important to leverage the necessary term that conveys the message in a clear and concise manner. I find articles such as these comical. They are similar to publishing the latest fashion trend where the publicist suggests one not wear socks with a suit. Socks then become the next article of what not to do and such superfluities are not productive. Maybe the next article should address the misuse of simple words such as “we’re, where, were” or “there, their, they’re”. Thank you for the article.

    • Mitchell | June 19, 2019 at 7:51 am

      I strongly disagree with the authors.

      I’ve worked with global enterprises and small startups. Every industry and every organization has its acronyms and buzzwords. You may not like or appreciate them but a blanket “get rid of these from your vocabulary” is not something I’d recommend. Instead, embrace your unique business culture, change with it, and communicate to be understood rather than just being heard.

    • Jimmy Salmon | June 19, 2019 at 7:27 am

      Synergy: the notion that two mediocre managements can fill each other’s voids, creating a supernova.

    • Larry Silverman | June 19, 2019 at 7:09 am

      What about “The bottom line is . . . . . “?! Useful but still obnoxious.

    • L. St John | June 19, 2019 at 12:10 am

      The word that drives me crazy is “Amazing.” It is so overused. Most often for something that is not amazing.

    • Matthew | June 18, 2019 at 11:24 pm

      How about, “I’ll ping you.” That one needs to die an immediate, agonizing death.

    • Chris | June 18, 2019 at 11:00 pm

      Curious what would you use beside the terms you indicated? I started to write out specific terms that are actually useful that you said needed to be deleted but it got to be too much, seriously – if you think about it, it takes 2 sentences to define a term, you actually typically reach a conclusion on what the term indicates- isnt that the whole point of words? (“Let’s see, isnt there a word to describe [write 2 sentences), ah yes, that’s the word I was thinking of!). So you don’t have to spend 2 sentences to describe what you’re saying? Clicked on article bc completely agree that some corporate lingo is a joke, but at least 1/3 to half these actually mean something. Lol funny stuff – great topic but way off on the deliverable 🙂

    • Carl Cronk | June 18, 2019 at 10:38 pm

      Unfortunately, the author seems to have been bitten by the Politically Correct, Double Speak of the Millennials.

      “Communication is, The message Sent is the message Received!”

      That includes using Generally Accepted (not temporary slang) and Understood terms.

      Jargon is usually specific to an industry or trade . . . But I consider 2/3 of those terms to be good business terms.

      I will continue to use the ones I believe will convey my message.

    • Betsy | July 12, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      “At the end of the day” has been overused for years – one of the worst offenders!

    • Don D. | July 11, 2018 at 4:09 pm

      Sorry to report but many of these words and phrases are common amongst Senior Leaders, Management and on the front lines. Do the authors have any suggestions or alternatives to get the message across? As an example, ‘scalable’ is a key term in most businesses, I would think.

    • M Eickhoff | June 25, 2018 at 6:06 pm

      How about ‘in my wheelhouse’?
      How many business people have ever been in a wheelhouse, let alone know what one is or have competency at sailing any type of vessel that would have an actual wheelhouse. Sounds way too, ‘trying to sound smart’, when you’re just copying something overheard being said by someone else who probably doesn’t understand the level of skill it takes to understand and operate something as complex as a ship.

    • Phillip L Begley | June 25, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      Thank you for the list. It is easy to get caught in a rut with terminology and I will for one make an effort to broaden my business vocabulary. For me, two additional buzz words I cringe at hearing are: “viral” used in a post that is viewed quickly; and “without question” as an absolute response to answer an inquiry.

    • J Peterson | June 24, 2018 at 5:26 pm

      Maybe respondents should include their Birth Year.
      I think this would shed some light on the various individual’s perspectives.
      Just a thought.

    • Louie Guralnick | June 23, 2018 at 8:21 am

      whoah this blog is fantastic i love reading your articles. Keep up the good work! You know, a lot of people are searching around for this info, you could aid them greatly.

    • Susan | June 22, 2018 at 5:32 pm

      You have made a good point about hackneyed and/or offense terms used by big business.

      It was not surprising that a commenter endorsed such language because he or she had served in the military. Government (think “sequestration”), the military(think “friendly fire”) , and big business are all particularly fond of this misuse of language, which, in fact, does alienate and befuddle the layperson. In fact, the deliberate use of such “insider” terms sends the clear message that the listener is not a part of the “in-club.”
      We can choose to be straightforward or burden others with jargon Thankfully, many of these terms fade out on their own because they are nothing more than trends, or worse, “disruptive” to communication.

      The terms that do stay in the language usually can be understood by most people. Isn’t that, after all, what effective communication is meant to accomplish?

    • Martha | June 22, 2018 at 1:12 pm

      Love the comments! Jon Russell – “Spot On”

    • Janet Osterdock | June 22, 2018 at 12:17 pm

      Words like targeting in marketing is a new no-no – particularly when speaking to consumers.

    • Shawn | June 22, 2018 at 6:18 am


      What compels people to begin every sentence with the word “so”?

      “Dave, tell me about your new strategy to improve profits.” “So, we thought about what we were doing…”.

    • Frank Q | June 20, 2018 at 3:56 pm

      Here’s one that makes me nuts: “at the end of the day”. I had a boss who used this phrase constantly and it was maddening!

    • Tom | June 20, 2018 at 2:34 pm

      Optics and dynamics

    • Aaron S | June 20, 2018 at 2:17 pm

      I fully agree with this and think more should be added as well. I hate biz-speak. It’s not efficient, it’s designed to dilute communication into rote parroting. Call / response. Bore me to tears with your inability to articulate yourself but effectively bridge the gap with other knobs. Basically, it’s code for “I’m playing ball with the all typical conventions.”

      Keep praying to your monolith.

    • Jody Brown Spivey | June 20, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      Offended that the term “brick and mortar” is considered by writer as an overused buzz word/term that should be eliminated from vocabulary. Brick and Mortar is vital for many small businesses and the term accurately describes that it is a physical location of a business. I would agree that .com’s have changed many business platforms however physical stores will always be key to retailer strategy, the format, feel and function of those stores will be ever changing and evolving to meet the growing demands of consumers.

    • Stephen Moore | June 20, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      This list was spot on. I’m sorry, but the folks who disagree with the list don’t recognize the fact that when you’re sitting in a meeting where these worn out terms are used (that don’t illicit any real meaning) you risk losing your audience, or, at the very least creating a few glazed looks.
      Another term that is getting extremely overused is the use of the word “conversation”. As in, “we need to include Sally and Joe in this conversation”. Or “this is an important conversation the team needs to have”.
      I’m not sure why, but that one is really annoying.

    • lynn bastianon | June 20, 2018 at 11:59 am

      I think the main point here is that we make assumptions that everyone understands a word the same
      not realizing the audience they are talking to.
      Some expressions as noted above are used differently in each division of business and you do not have to be from a different country to get confused.
      Just pay attention when speaking who you are talking to and your choice of words.

    • Janice | June 20, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Not to be obvious, but are you aware that ‘drink the Kool-Aid’ is a term referring to a mass suicide? May want to delete that one from your business vocabulary as well.

    • Eric Coll | June 20, 2018 at 11:10 am

      3. Analysis paralysis: Psychologist Barry Schwartz coined the term “Paradox of Choice”…. not really. It was around long before Barry, but he must not speak French.

      The expression “l’embarras du choix” has been part of French for a long time. It translates literally to “the embarrassment of choice” and means “too many choices.”

      (It also illustrates how 40% of English words are actually French: embarras -> embarrassment and choix -> choice, due to the francophone Normans invading and occupying England following the Battle of Hastings in 1066…)

    • Holt | June 20, 2018 at 10:25 am

      I disagree with the premise of this article. The reason these catch-phrases have evolved into their current iteration is to make verbal and written communication more concise and efficient. Every one of these phrases is now almost universally understood as to their meaning. The article’s advice to eliminate these words and phrases and replace them with more everyday language creates a problem these words and phrases were designed to solve. Without this surrogate language, many people would be reduced to communicating far less effectively.

    • Stuart GArdner | June 20, 2018 at 10:10 am

      I disagree with the authors. Have they ‘ever’ been involved in business? The terms described here are descriptive. If anything, the title that might be considered is ’60 Overused Terms’. However what confirms they ‘have never’ been involved in business is a very overused term – ‘At the end of the day’. The application for that term could use some revision.

    • Don Obenauer | June 20, 2018 at 10:05 am

      61. consultant: a person whose job is to tell productive workers how to do their jobs by implying that the old way isn’t as good as the new way

    • Theodore Johnson | June 20, 2018 at 9:09 am

      I respectfully disagree with this theme. Nearly all these terms are still used on a daily basis in the military and in the small business world, based upon my full career in the military and my current career as a small business owner.

    • Jon Russell | June 20, 2018 at 9:01 am

      I completely disagree.
      These terms were created to avoid having to define every possible nuance to a less than experienced individual. If you don’t “get it” then you need to. The last thing we need is to expand presentations with more inaccurate data and incomplete correlation assumptions for the sake of looking like we know more than we really do.
      Buzz words are the equivalent of business shorthand. Those of us who have been “in the trenches” for awhile are well versed in their meaning and proper context, and we can spot in a minute when they are being used as compensation for true knowledge. If a person should avoid anything, it is speaking with authority about something you in fact know little about. The transparency is obvious to those who do.

    • Eric Coll | June 20, 2018 at 8:30 am

      What’s a paradigm? 20 cents.

    • Andrew Chapo | June 20, 2018 at 8:19 am

      Don’t forget ending a sentence with ‘from a (fill in the blank) perspective/standpoint’.

    • Tony Palmieri | June 20, 2018 at 8:13 am

      You forgot a couple of new ones that aren’t old; just aggravating:

      – “Reaching out” to people instead of simply contacting them. One reaches out to another when they are drowning or need to be saved with a helping hand. Not to talk, text or email. Okay, sign language could be construed as reaching out but I’ll draw the line there. Let’s simply contact each other.
      – “Taking a pause”…one can pause but one can’t “take” a pause. One can take a moment and pause, take a minute to reflect but how does one “take a pause”? Who thinks this stuff up and how does it gain traction?

      I’m done. I’m feeling a tad better. Back to work after venting. Thanks for reading. 🙂

    • The Pet Elf | June 20, 2018 at 7:41 am

      Please add [working with a] “Sense of Urgency” – makes me cringe.
      Great list, although I’m guilty of using a few!

    • Alexandra Zaporozec | June 20, 2018 at 12:36 am

      Don’t agree with this article. Many of these terms are business lexicon and everyone instantly knows what is meant. They are efficient and effective. Just because this is true does not make it “cringe-worthy”.

      Are these two writers actually businesspeople? Do they run meetings and communicate meaning to individuals or groups?

      The only take-away (oops, they missed one!) here should be not to overuse a good thing.

    • Shane Hoevelman | June 19, 2018 at 10:44 pm

      While I appreciated the identification worn out buzzwords (that I often use), I was hoping to gather some new and improved alternatives. Guess I will just keep making people cringe. Wamp, wamp, wamp

    • Helene F. Solesbee | June 19, 2018 at 10:32 pm

      What happened to point 2?

    • Jeff Allen | June 19, 2018 at 10:12 pm

      I feel as though I’ve been ripped off. You promised me 60 words and you only gave 59 (there is no #2).

    • Steven Harris | June 19, 2018 at 10:04 pm

      I wanted to reach out to add one of my least appreciated comments..”reach out”. Why not just call me?

    • Zhe dai | June 19, 2018 at 9:35 pm

      U forgot ‘game changer’

    • Dan Desjardins | June 19, 2018 at 9:28 pm

      Um – this covers buzzwords from the Reagan era to now…
      At what point does a buzzword become a cliche?

Leave a Reply

Disclaimer: Comments are subject to moderation and removal without cause or justification and may take up to 24 hours to be seen in comments. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Please do not include personal policy information; if you have questions or concerns regarding your policy with The Hartford, please log into your account or you can speak directly to a Customer Service Representative.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.