Last month, I presented this year's crop of jargon and gobbledygook phrases business writers want to avoid. This issue presents clearer alternatives to these overused phrases.
I noticed two responses from the many client and reader comments and contributions to this list:
1. These phrases really annoy readers.
2. At one point, most of these phrases were useful and even evocative. Now, they are so overused they indicate parroted, or even careless, thinking.
Here is an interesting quote to contemplate. Jason Fried, the CEO of 37 Signals, stated, "jargon is insecurity." I agree with this. In an attempt to fit in, business writers sometimes lapse into overused jargon.
Specific, accurate language is always prefereable to meaningless business-speak.
In a recent client survey, the following phrases were identified as most annoying and meaningless by clients and readers. Here is that list, with more clear, accurate alternatives:
1. At the end of the day - ultimately, essentially, or just omit
2. 30,000-foot view - consideration, full consideration, strategic consideration
3. Give 110% - 110% effort is mathematically impossible jargon, so substitute full effort, commitment, focus.
4. Think outside of the box - reflect, analyze, think beyond
5. FYI - omit. Write a brief sentence that actually summarizes the situation.
6. 800-pound gorilla - the dominant factor
7. Throw under the bus - sacrifice, scapegoat
8. My bad - My error. I'm sorry. ("My bad" means "I was wrong but I don't care," to many readers.)
9. Right-sizing - staff reductions, layoffs
10. Reaching out - Name the action you will take with an accurate verb, "I will call you."
11. Low hanging fruit - opportunity (Warning: this term is also slang to describe an easy "romantic" conquest, so the innuendo is as problematic in business writing as the overuse.)
12. Paradigm shift - viewpoint
13. Take it offline - Discuss after this meeting
14. At this point in time - now
15. Synergy - collaborate, share
16. Action item - task
17. Skin in the game - committed, invested
18. Shovel-ready - ready, organized
19. We don't have the bandwidth (referring to staff) - not enough staff, short-staffed
20. Circle back - revisit, discuss later, follow up
21. _________ space "eCommerce space" - Just name the actual industry.
22. Change agent - catalyst, innovator
23. Value-added solution - solution (if there is no value, it is not a solution, so "value-added" is redundant)
24. Incentivize - incentive, motivate, encourage. (This is an example of a bad "verbification."
25. 360-degree thinking - full consideration, or a specific summary of the customer history and goals
Test Your Own Jargon
The very irreverent site Unsuck-It will identify words it considers to be jargon, or overused, hype-filled words.
Learn More in This Course: Effective Business Writing Techniques