127 Top Business Jargon Examples [And How to Fix Them]

Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published June 16, 2021, updated August 11, 2023
127 Top Business Jargon Examples [And How to Fix Them]

Skilled business writing rejects business jargon. Yet, industry-specific phrases and buzzwords are very commonly used. Even the best writers and business leaders can fall into the jargon trap if they’re not careful.

Fortunately, by using the right perspective, you can revise business buzzwords out of your text or avoid it in the first place. 

This article will highlight the perspective that is needed to easily identify confusing jargon. To start you off on your jargon hunt, we’ve also prepared our list of the top 127 jargon and gobbledygook examples in business writing.

Why does business jargon exist?

Sadly, the primary reason business writers use too much jargon is everyone else is using it. We learn to write by modeling others. Business writing is notorious for corporate lingo. There is even a book that addresses this problem, Why Business People Sound like Idiots.

Meaningless jargon has become so commonplace that the writer does not perceive the term as jargon. Instead, the writer incorrectly sees jargon as an insider-term or in-the-know business dialect. However, this writing ignores the most crucial factor in business writing: the audience.

Jason Fried, the founder of Basecamp and author of Rework, stated, “Jargon is insecurity.” Instead of using strong, clear, words that accurately reflect concepts, we lapse into vague corporate-speak by parroting beaten-to-death jargon.

jargon graphs business experiment
Science proves this.

To help combat corporate jargon in professional writing we created the Jargon Grader. It’s a simple app that helps you identify and eliminate jargon in your writing. Just paste your text into the application and review the flagged words. Try the Jargon Grader for free [click here].

The essential perspective

Jargon is defined as language that is not well understood outside of a specified group. Therefore, useful language for one group could be total jargon to another group.

The only way to know if a term is jargon or not is to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. How well does your reader understand the document topic? An executive in your company is likely familiar with company-wide acronyms. Conversely, a client might be confused by the same acronym.

Jargon or gobbledygook phrases must be revised or placed in a context that makes the idea accessible to the reader. This may mean fully writing out acronyms, explaining terminology, or modifying the content to better orient the reader.

Overused colloquial phrases, such as “at the end of day,” weaken your message. A phrase like this is so beaten to death that it no longer has any resonant meaning. 

"Plain language removes barriers between you and your readers," says Hoa Loranger at the Nielsen Norman Group. "No one has ever complained that a text was too easy to understand."

The “but it sounds nice” trap

Business writing has a clear purpose. It is generally meant to inform or persuade.

It’s tempting to use impressive-sounding language to persuade the reader of your personal competence in the subject area. It seems like an easy way to demonstrate your knowledge. Plus, you’re including the latest industry terms, which shows what your company knows is on trend. Doesn’t it sound nice?

However, this tactic will often leave the reader confused or ill-informed. Jargon is easy to skim past. Buzz terms are so overused that they have lost real meaning.

A good writer proves their subject area expertise by being able to communicate it to any audience. Audience comprehension of a complex topic is the best proof of your knowledge.


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The top 127 jargon and gobbledygook examples

      1. 110% - Isn’t that just bad math? Exaggeration brings questions to your other numbers.

      2. Actionable

      3. Agile - Are you using the Agile methodology? If not, you’re using a buzzword.

      4. A-ha moment

      5. All-hands meeting

      6. ASAP - But, when? Specific dates and times create action.

      7. At this point in time - Simplicity is bliss. Try: At this point or Now

      8. Authentic

      9. Back of the envelope - Try: initial estimate or rough calculation

      10. Balls in the air

      11. Bandwidth - Try: capacity or time

      12. Bang for the buck - Easy to promise, but what does it really mean?

      13. Banner year

      14. Beat the bushes

      15. Beef up - Try: reinforce or intensify

      16. Best in class

      17. Best practices

      18. Big bang for the buck

      19. Bleeding edge

      20. Boil the ocean

      21. Boondoggle - Using a cute word for a mistake won’t make the explanation easier.

      22. Boots on the ground

      23. Brain dump

      24. Bring to the table

      25. Buck the trend

      26. Build capacity

      27. Buzzworthy

      28. Cast a wider net

      29. Change agent

      30. Circle back - Try: revisit or discuss later

      31. Core competency

      32. Corporate values

      33. Cradle to grave

      34. Crowdsource

      35. Crushing it - It may be Gary Vaynerchuk’s favorite phrase, but what does it really mean?

      36. Culture fit

      37. Deep dive

      38. Dialogue

      39. Do more with less

      40. Drill down - Try: analyze or scrutinize

      41. Drink the kool-aid

      42. Due diligence

      43. Empower

      44. End of week

      45. Fire fighting

      46. First and foremost - You can drop the ‘and foremost’ for a stronger, simpler sentence.

      47. Food chain

      48. Forward planning - Can one plan backward?

      49. Frictionless

      50. Game changer

      51. Growth hacking

      52. Guesstimate

      53. Hand holding

      54. Hard stop

      55. Headwinds - Try: challenges or constraints

      56. Hyperlocal

      57. Ideation

      58. Impact - Everyone loves impact, but it can easily be a fluff word. Give it real meaning.

      59. In the black

      60. In the loop

      61. In today’s world - What other world are we in?

      62. Irregardless - Most believe this word is not a word.

      63. It's a paradigm shift

      64. It is what it is - Why not add “...and I don’t care.”

      65. Kick the tires - Try: test or trial

      66. Knee deep

      67. Land and expand

      68. Let's be honest - What is the other option?

      69. Leverage

      70. Lipstick on a pig

      71. Lots of moving parts

      72. Low hanging fruit

      73. Magic bullet

      74. Make it pop

      75. Mission-critical

      76. Move the needle - This phrase calls for statistics. Do you have them?

      77. New normal

      78. On the runway

      79. Open the kimono

      80. Organic growth

      81. Special projects

      82. Peel the onion

      83. Perfect storm

      84. Personal brand

      85. Pre-think - Does ‘pre’ add any value here?

      86. Productize - Does your audience see this verb as a word?

      87. Pull the trigger - Try: initiate or kick-off

      88. Raise the bar

      89. Reinvent the wheel

      90. Reach out

      91. Resource intensive

      92. Results-oriented - This should be a given.

      93. Revolutionize - A rare occurrence stated commonly.

      94. Robust

      95. Run it up the flagpole

      96. Scalability

      97. Secret sauce

      98. Shovel ready - Try: prepared or simple ready

      99. Silver bullet

      100. Solutioneering - Be careful of words that didn’t exist last year.

      101. Stopgap

      102. Strategic partnership - Which partnerships are not strategic?

      103. Straw man

      104. Summit

      105. Survival strategy

      106. Sweetheart deal

      107. Swimlane

      108. Synergy - Perhaps the most infamous jargon term.

      109. Table the conversation

      110. Tailwinds

      111. Take offline

      112. Take it to the next level

      113. Tee up

      114. Test the water - Try: trial or investigate

      115. Thought leader - Today, everyone is a thought leader. Use the term thoughtfully.

      116. Tiger team

      117. Top of mind

      118. Touch base - Try: contact or chat

      119. Transparent

      120. Triage

      121. Trim the fat

      122. Upstream

      123. Value add - value implicitly adds value. If there is no add, there is no value.

      124. Vertical

      125. Viral

      126. War room

      127. Where the rubber meets the road - Try: implementation area

Note, this list of jargon examples does not include individual company jargon which must be tracked and translated into everyday business-speak. Only you can navigate and identify your organization’s special brand of business jargon phrases.


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Related: Guide to Business Writing
Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published June 16, 2021, updated August 11, 2023
Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.