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25 Buzzwords That Make My Head Explode

Many of you know I’m not too fond of buzzwords and corporate jargon.

Unfortunately, in my line of work, I see it all the time: job candidates using buzzwords on their resumes or in interviews in an attempt to convey their business savvy. It rarely works. Instead, they come across as vague and lacking in substance.

Why bother using confusing words when you can just use plain, simple language that everyone understands?

Here is my bi-annual list of overused, eye-rolling words and terms that populate the current business landscape. If you want to add others to the list, loop me in.

1. Disruption: This one was on my list two years ago, and it’s still here. If you label yourself a “disruptor” on your resume, you’ll never get a call from me.

2. Alignment: I’m not sure, but I think that means we agree. Or maybe it means we’re “on the same page.”

3. Best practices: Another classic! As far as I’m concerned, this is just a term used to describe what most people do. It has nothing to do with what is best.

4. There’s lots to unpack here: Why don’t we just discuss stuff?

5. Circle back: Doesn’t going in a circle mean ending up where you started? Why would you want to do that? To me, it’s the corporate equivalent of saying, “Let’s talk about this when I’ve forgotten what we were talking about.”

6. Let’s marinade on that: Unless you are a steak that needs tenderizing, why don’t you “think about it”? Someone recently said, “Let me ‘percolate’ on that,” but he can be excused because he is a coffee connoisseur.

7. Holistic approach: I think this means that we should “cover all bases,” but it usually ends up covering none.

8. Innovative solutions: You see this term in corporate brochures all the time. But, really, it is just a generic term that gets thrown around when someone can’t think of a better way to describe what they’re offering.

9. Low-hanging fruit: Sounds nice, but it’s usually a euphemism for the most mind-numbingly simple tasks. Let’s elevate our aspirations beyond the fruit orchard, okay?

10. Core competencies: You could tell us what you’re good at instead.

11. In the wheelhouse: Seriously, if I was a ship’s captain, I’d be very insulted that the place where I work all day has been turned into a buzzword.  

12. Comms: Just use the whole word “communications.” It does not take that much longer to say and eliminates a lot of confusion.

13. Move the needle: Nobody plays vinyl records now, so I’m not even sure why this one is so popular. Maybe it just means we should fiddle with things until something happens.

14. Deep dive: Take a deep breath before diving into this one. It’s simply an invitation to scrutinize, analyze, and overthink. Why paddle in the shallow end when you can drown in the depths of a deep dive, right?

15. 30,000-foot view: All I know is when I look out a plane at 30,000 feet, I usually see clouds.

16. Going forward: I guess it’s possible you could be going backward, I don’t know.

17. In the hopper: We’re going to need a pretty big hopper by the time we stuff all these buzzwords in it.

18. Paradigm shift: This one has been around for ages and it’s still annoying. It seems to be the go-to phrase for any change, no matter how minor. Let’s reserve this buzzword for truly seismic moments like when you change the brand of coffee being served in your office.

19. Synergy: If your eyes roll every time you hear this, you’re not alone. Because who needs plain old teamwork when you can have synergy?

20. Pivot: Doesn’t that mean you changed your mind?

21. Run it up the ladder: Why don’t you just go talk to the boss?

22. Side hustle: Latest jargon for a ‘part-time job.’

23. We operate in silos: In other words …  we don’t talk to each other.

24. Words that start with ‘Uber’: That means it’s pretty darn good … if you like Uber, that is.

25. Monetize: Why not just tell us how you’re going to make money? Then everybody will understand what you mean.

But seriously … words matter. Language is a powerful tool. You will be much more effective if you cut out the buzzwords and communicate with words that resonate rather than irritate.