Writing & Storytelling

Skip Annoying Buzzwords; Choose Clarity and Meaning Instead

Business buzzwords can ease communication or confuse and alienate people. As NPR reports, corporate jargon sounds trite and rings hollow. Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large at Merriam-Webster, says jargon loses its meaning and becomes a “signifier for something else, which is language that isn’t very direct [or] emotionally honest.”

Rather than default to fashionable phrases, “more intelligent communicators will find other and more direct ways to say the same thing,” Sokolowski said.

In a recent survey by language-learning platform Preply, more than 1 in 5 people say they dislike corporate buzzwords. However, 2 in 5 say they hear those expressions at least once a day, while 7 in 10 admit to using business jargon themselves.

According to the survey respondents, commonly used corporate buzz-phrases include “win-win,” “culture” (as in company culture), “circle back,” “it’s on my radar,” “on the same page,” “bring to the table” and “new normal.”

“New normal” was found to be most annoying, followed by “culture” and “circle back.” Other irritating cliches included “give 110%,” “move the needle” and “think outside the box.”

According to a June report commissioned by LinkedIn and the learning app Duolingo, rather than help people communicate, jargon can make it harder to navigate the workplace. Forty percent of respondents say they’ve had a misunderstanding or made a mistake at work because they didn’t know the meaning of jargon or used it incorrectly. And 61% believe that workers who possess a better understanding of workplace jargon are more likely to receive promotions and raises.

Sokolowski says English speakers in particular appreciate rhetoric that’s short, direct and meaningful. He advises communicators to speak clearly, use words according to their conventional definitions, “and think of the sort of short words that convey emotion and deep meaning.”

[Illustration credit: nuthawut]

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1 Comment

  • Thank you for the reminder that as public relations practitioners, we should strive for clear and meaningful communication with our colleagues and publics. Using language that everyone can relate to can lead to a more productive workplace and/or campaign.

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