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Home Best Practices Just say “No!” to business-speak.

Just say “No!” to business-speak.

Whatever it is you do for a living, chances are you use some sort of jargon or slang or made-up words that you use to communicate with others who are in your line of work.  Airline pilots speak their own language.  Doctors and nurses talk to one another in med-speak.  Lawyers, scientists, and computer geeks use words, terms, and phrases that the rest of us don’t understand.  People in the military, government workers, and building contractors do the same thing.  And not to be left out, those of us who are plain, vanilla business people, do it too.  Unfortunately, if the goal is to communicate clearly, concisely, and with precision, much of the jargon we use falls short.  Business-speak can be obscure, confusing, or vague.  Besides, it tends to make the person using it sound like a pompous ass.  Below are a few business terms that have outlived their usefulness (assuming they ever were useful) and that you should consider eliminating from your vocabulary.  If you think you may be guilty of using some of these terms, please read on below.

Just say “No!” to business-speak.

“OK people, this is a real game changer.  We’ve got to on-board our new learnings to give us the bandwidth we need to repurpose our core competencies.  I need your buy-in here, so let’s drill down, do a deep dive on this, and get real granular.”


If you have ever talked like that, you are the afore mentioned pompous ass, and you need to seek professional help.  But assuming you stick mostly to the King’s English with only a smattering of business-speak here and there, the suggestions below for trimming your business-speak vocabulary may be helpful.

Move the needle – what needle?  And where are we supposed to move it?  Actually, I have been known to use this one myself and I hate to part with it, but it does have to go.

Open the kimono – think naked 400-pound sumo wrestler.  Eeeew.  Gross!

Let’s take it offline – no, let’s not.  Let’s just talk about it later.

Reach out – there’s a danger here you may touch something you’re not supposed to.  Safer to call, text, or email.

Take it to the next level – most people think we’re already on the next level.  So if we’re not, where the heck are we?

On a going forward basis – what’s the matter with “In the future . . . “ or “From now on . . . “?  Fewer words, same meaning.

Ideation – I’m not sure that’s even a word.  I bet some marketing guy, bored with “brainstorming,” made it up.

Disintermediate – use “cut out the middleman” instead.  It’s easier to say and people will actually understand what you mean.

At the end of the day – another phrase I’m guilty of using myself, but it’s gotta go.

Best of breed – only if you’re at a dog show.

Tee it up – only if you’re playing golf.

This is not a definitive list of business-speak terms . . . not even close.  The above are intended only to sensitize you to business-speak terms so that you can begin purging them from your business lexicon.  If you want to see the entire universe of pretentious business terms, just type “business jargon” into your search engine and all sorts of stuff will come up.

So, you can think outside the box, looking for a window of opportunity to grab some low-hanging fruit in a bid for transparency and a shift in your paradigm.  Or you can just clean up your business language.  Your choice.

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