Time for a Refresh: 10 Examples of Business Jargon that Need to Go

Sometimes it can feel like the business world has its very own language—and oftentimes, it does. While there’s nothing wrong with using technical terms as needed, certain words and phrases have become so overused every employee does a mental eye roll when they’re spoken. And there are some most office workers would be more than happy to see go away permanently.


1. Reach out

Used as a general catch-all to mean “contact,” this phrase has been so overdone it’s become downright cringy. It’s much more efficient to say “call” or “email” instead, since doing so states specifically how you want someone to contact you.

2. Circle back

Apparently, this is officially one of the most hated phrases in the corporate world. Perhaps it’s because it’s such a trite way to say, “Let’s discuss the subject at a later time,” or maybe because such circuitous imagery always feels a little pointless. Whatever the reason, most people agree there’s no need to “circle back” to this phrase anytime soon.

3. Paradigm shift

This is one of those phrases that likely grew in popularity because people generally like to use big, complicated words in order to make themselves sound more knowledgeable. Used to describe a major change in how things are done, “paradigm shift” sounds more like the name of an indie rock band than a corporate strategy.

4. Ideate

There is perhaps nothing more infuriating than taking a perfectly good noun and forcing it to become a verb. Another word that tops the list of most hated business jargon, “ideate” means “to come up with new ideas.” So, let’s just say what we mean then, shall we?

5. Best practice

Favored largely by those in the consulting and academic realms, “best practice” simply translates to the approach or arrangement that produces the best results. But its overuse has, by now, made the phrase practically meaningless to a large swathe of the population.

6. Lots of moving parts

Unless you are responsible for helping run a factory with literal moving parts—think giant conveyer belts and hulking gears—your company should not involve “lots of moving parts.” Instead, it should involve lots of people who do not appreciate being spoken of as if they are machinery.

7. Dialogue

Here we have that tried and true “turn a noun into a verb” habit of corporate speak again. Instead of creating a new verb, why don’t we use one that’s already in existence? You know, the word “talk”? It’s even shorter and easier to spell!

8. Core competency

This phrase means “a firm’s or a person’s fundamental strength,” except the phrase itself uses the word “competency.” This indicates that being competent is the baseline to which the company adheres—an idea that is, to say the least, not encouraging. Shouldn’t they be striving for more?

9. Buy-in

Not to be confused with a “buy-out,” this phrase technically means that people have come to an agreement about an action that must be taken. It’s more often used, however, when one person comes up with an idea and asks for another’s “buy-in” to avoid having to actually discuss the matter as a team.

10. Corporate values

Often used by companies who tend to overlook their employees as actual people, the term “corporate values” conjures up images of team-building exercises and “We’re like a family” sentimentality. But the truth is, corporations don’t have values—the people who run them and work there do. Give credit where credit is due!

While language is the most important tool of communication, learning to use your words purposefully (whether in person or in writing) is an art form unto itself. Retiring these overused business words and phrases—and replacing them with their more direct counterparts—can go a long way in communicating more effectively…and reducing the amount of inward cringing in the office.

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