Business jargon to avoid (so you don’t sound like a douche)

At this juncture, we need to air out the issue of the TPS reports.

There’s English, and then there’s business English—that jumble of jargon and overly complicated words that serve no purpose other than to confuse your corporate minions. Last week we discussed utilize, which is a fancy and pointless way to say use—excuse me, I mean leverage. But why stop there?

Today’s action item is to dialogue about jargon that has gained traction in the business world. In other words, here’s a list of business terms and phrases to avoid with ideas for what you can say instead. Your minions will thank you.

actionable: Which projects are actionable this year?
REWRITE: Which projects can we do this year?

action item: This is an action item for this week.
REWRITE: This is something we need to do this week.

air out: Let’s air out that issue in today’s meeting.
REWRITE: Let’s discuss that issue in today’s meeting.

at this juncture: We can’t go public at this juncture.
REWRITE: We can’t go public at this time.

bring to the table: What can you bring to the table for this project?
REWRITE: What can you contribute to this project?

circle back around: I’ll circle back around about that project tomorrow.
REWRITE: Let’s talk about that project tomorrow.

circle with: Circle with Judy about that project this afternoon.
REWRITE: Meet with Judy about that project this afternoon.

core competencies: These are our company’s core competencies.
REWRITE: These are what our company does best.

dial in: We should dial in Judy for this project.
REWRITE: We should include Judy for this project.

dialogue (verb): Dialogue with Judy about the project.
REWRITE: Talk with Judy about the project.

driver: What are the key drivers to improve our company?
REWRITE: What are the key factors in improving our company?

facetime: Let’s schedule some facetime with the director.
REWRITE: Let’s schedule a meeting in the director’s office.

functionality: Our department has increased functionality.
REWRITE: Our department has improved. / Our department functions better (than last year). / Our department has more functions.

gain traction: We need this project to gain traction in the company.
REWRITE: We need to show the importance of this project.

human capital: At our company, our human capital is most important.
REWRITE: At our company, our employees are most important.

incentivize: The rebate will incentivize more shoppers to buy it.
REWRITE: The rebate will encourage more shoppers to buy it.

interface: Can we interface after lunch?
REWRITE: Can we talk after lunch?

keep in the loop: Be sure to keep Judy in the loop.
REWRITE: Be sure to include Judy.

leverage: Let’s find a way to leverage that resource.
REWRITE: Let’s find a way to use that resource.

offline (used during meetings): Let’s discuss this offline.
REWRITE: Let’s discuss this after the meeting.

on point: Judy is on point for today’s meeting.
REWRITE: Judy is leading today’s meeting.

operationalize: Let’s operationalize this task today.
REWRITE: Let’s do this task today.

productize: Let’s productize this idea.
REWRITE: Let’s find a way to make this idea into a product.

pushback: Judy received pushback about her idea.
REWRITE: Judy received opposition to her idea.

ramp up: We should ramp up production next quarter.
REWRITE: We should increase production next quarter.

task (verb): Task that project to Judy.
REWRITE: Assign that project to Judy.

touch base: Could you touch base with Judy about that project?
REWRITE: Could you talk with Judy about that project?

utilize: How can we best utilize your skills?
REWRITE: How can we best use your skills?

Do you have other entries?
Please share your irksome business jargon in the comments section. I’d love you to keep me in the loop.

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38 thoughts on “Business jargon to avoid (so you don’t sound like a douche)

  1. Is it just me or do a lot of these terms seem vaguely sexual… Interfacing? Touching base? Various circles? Perhaps that is why they gain traction or what have you.

  2. Great there goes my entire vocabulary. Looks like it’s back to the drawing board for new material. Can we add that to the list?

  3. Nice list. I’m not a big fan of these phrases either:
    “Reach out to me if necessary” Just say, “Call me or send me an e-mail or stop by my office.”
    “Let’s try to connect live this afternoon.” Just say, “Let’s try to talk this afternoon.”

  4. Do you get the Dilbert cartoon? If so, you’ve probably already seen today’s and cringed. The pointy-haired boss says to Dilbert, “I want to INCENT you to do the right things.” Really? As a Verb??

    A young female executive is sent by her Indiana company on a business trip to Boston. Greatly appreciating seafood, she looks forward to it. She lands and takes a taxi from the terminal. The driver looks back and asks, “Where to, lady?” She says, “I don’t know. Where can I get scrod?” He replies, “I didn’t even know that verb had a past tense.”

  5. Ha! This post makes me hate myself. Even though, as a new mom, I’m currently out of the corporate world, I’m pretty sure I, ahem, utilize these terms when, uh, interfacing with my husband and friends. Loathe. Self. Will change.

    • Don’t fret, my anonymous commenter. It’s nearly impossible to spend any time in a corporate environment without accidentally picking up the lingo. It’s like a virus or something. But now you know. So, cut it out.

  6. Well done, GP. Please please please also start a movement to end use once the following term “reach out to…” Makes my skin crawl when someone uses that term.

    • That phrase makes me think: Ack! I’m trying to get by sans corporate business world, so I don’t know how much help I can be in eliminating that phrase. Perhaps I can shout at people from my apartment window to stop saying that.

  7. Anything you can do is much appreciated.

    I could quietly, but sharply rant on about how it is not the word or phrase per se that is the issue but the users of said word or phrase. I got to thinking about your earlier comment regarding zombie hordes and a correlation arose about today’s corporate world. However, I forgot my soapbox downstairs and to rant properly, I need my pink soapbox. (Protects me from zombies.)

  8. Another one I find particulary annoying is “reach out” to s/t or s/one, as in “We reached out to Company X to get their response”

  9. One that seems especially pretentious to me is using “around” instead of “about”. Example: “We’ve had several discussions around this issue.”

  10. Pingback: Happy birthday, Grammar Party! | Grammar Party

  11. I have the hardest time with made-up words like when someone told me “I don’t office there.” Since when is “office” a verb? “I don’t have an office there.” Also, I recently heard about “on-boarding” new employees–are they walking the plank? We’re “bringing them on board,” also jargon, but at least it makes sense.

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  13. “Shadow,” meaning to sit with another employee and observe them working while they explain the job, ” a.k.a. “training.” As in: “I’d like you to take an hour to shadow Bob and observe his workflow while he processes a few of the new TPS reports.”

    “Going forward” used to mean “in the future,” always sounds to me like it’s trying so hard to be hopeful that it actually comes off as rather depressing.

    “Airtight” used to mean a product is functioning properly without major problems.

    “Resource” used to mean a person, as in “I’m happy to announce that our team now has acquired a couple new quality assurance resources, Carla and Jim.”

    “Leverage” is another good one: “Let’s leverage our two new QA resources Carla and Jim to make sure this release is airtight before the March 22nd release date.”

  14. My boss uses this language to hide his mediocre management “skills”
    Here is one : ” we are on top of that issue but we did not conclude,yet”
    Meaning: we (the boss) did not give a shit about it and did not even think about it

  15. Omg I was so happy to see this article! I wish I could think of them all right now. Please add my contributions of these douchebag words. 🙂
    -At the end of the day
    -Issues
    -That being said
    -With that in mind
    -Moving forward
    -Reach out
    -Opportunity

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