Business-speak. Corporate jargon is annoying, but that’s the least of its problems.
If there’s one trait that business writing ought to have, it’s clarity—which is the trait most business jargon phrases lack. They’re neither precise nor informative; they’re not even professional. They’re just vague, even though some might sound powerful or trendy.
We communications pros, however, should know better than to use the following phrases in business writing:
Paradigms are widely accepted models of how certain things are. Flat Earth was a paradigm. When paradigms shift, the consequences are substantial-on the scale of humans accepting that the heavens do not revolve around us. The introduction of quantum mechanics was a paradigm shift.
Unless a business produces changes on par with those cosmic events, we should avoid using the phrase “paradigm shift,” and use “major change” or “significant change” instead.
“Moving forward” is used to end one part of a conversation and go to the next. It might also be used to say that the business must begin the next phase of a development plan. In that case, it’s better simply to say what “moving forward” actually entails.
To advance the conversation or to move to the next point in a business letter, try “On a related matter,” although that has to be followed by a genuinely related matter. “Regarding” might be used; it, too, must be followed by an explanation.
You might simply forgo the use of advancing phrases altogether.
To some people, rock stars are individuals who stand on stages, towering over masses of people who soak up every word they sing or note they play. To others, they are people from the past who lived a wild lifestyle and, sadly, left us too early.
Is it a sound long-term business strategy to hire the latter? It’s not, so it’s more likely that people who write things like “Looking for a ROCKSTAR content writer” in their job posts are actually looking for a person with a good reputation, relevant experience and exceptional skills. So, why not just say so?
Oh, the mysterious “next level.” The prospect of reaching the next level is what keeps us glued to video games.
In business, however, mysteries aren’t so fun. What exactly is the next level? What are the requirements for getting there? And why should we bother?
These things are usually known only by the person uttering the phrase, so it should be avoided in business writing. Instead, when talking about change, try to describe the goal, the methods and means of achieving it, and the reasons it’s needed.
This phrase is often used in a specific kind of business writing—job applications. Resumes and CVs alike often list “results-oriented” as a personal trait, and that’s not good. It means that either you are prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve specific results, or that you expect to perform actions that cause results.
If the former is true, you should think long and hard about whether you really want to say that or not. If so, you’d better understand what “whatever it takes” means.
If the latter is true, you should know that the whole point of performing actions is for them to cause results, and they usually do because that’s one of the fundamental laws of physics.
It might be better to say that you’re hardworking and dedicated to achieving great results.
Give 110 percent
The only way you could give 110 percent of yourself on a project is if there were two of you and you could borrow 10 percent from the other you. Or the other you could borrow it from you—it works both ways because you’re both you. (Maybe you could divvy it up 63 percent and 47 percent, or any number of other possibilities.)
In any case, that phrase was borrowed from sports, which happens a lot in American business-speak. Even in sports, it didn’t make much sense.
Instead of using it, say you’ll “do your best” or “invest significant effort.”
Pre-plan or pre-prepare
Planning and preparation should happen before we take a course of action, so saying that something needs to be pre-planned or pre-prepared is redundant and silly. To emphasize the need for careful and timely planning, simply state that timeliness and care are needed.
Think outside the box
“Thinking outside the box” is one of the best-known jargon phrases, and one of the vaguest. We know what the goal of thinking outside the box is—to come up with unorthodox and original ideas or solutions.
When you’re in a meeting and someone says, “We need to think outside the box on this one,” and you sit in the room and feel all the brainpower being used, it’s not being used for thinking outside the box. It’s actually being used to try to figure out what the person who said you need to think outside the box actually wants.
It’s as imprecise a phrase as they come, and it should be ditched in favor of detailed explanations about the goal of the thinking process.
The popularity of the verb “to synergize” in business circles probably stems from its use in Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” an influential book among the business-minded.
“Synergize” sounds exotic and powerful, and it’s a great practice to adopt at the workplace because it involves cooperation. In business writing, though, using “cooperate” instead of “synergize” will make the message much clearer.
A perfect storm
“A perfect storm,” when used in business-speak, denotes the simultaneous occurrence of many unusual and unfavorable circumstances, usually with an undesirable outcome. It should be followed by an explanation of those circumstances, and in that case, the phrase becomes redundant.
Plus, the phrase is dramatic, and there’s rarely a need for that in business writing, so it might be best to steer clear of it.
A version of this article originally appeared on Grammarly.