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THE INC. LIFE

40 Buzzwords That Make Smart People Sound Stupid: The Most Overused Corporate Jargon

See how many you recognize from this new analysis of web and social communications.

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BY Jeff Haden - 16 May 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

We all know at least one person who overuses buzzwords and corporate jargon. He's (because it's almost always a guy) harmless, if a little irritating.

But when your website, press coverage, and social media posts include overused buzzwords and corporate jargon, that's a real problem. Overused words and terms don't just become meaningless over time, they can also be distracting and even irritating -- which means the impact of what you write and say can be totally lost.

That's why professional services firm Grant Thornton LLP just compiled a Jargon Index, assessing and ranking business jargon by "popularity." (To produce the Index, the company analyzed 134 corporate jargon terms on Fortune 500 company websites, in press coverage, and on social media during the first quarter of this year.)

Like Srikant Sastry, national managing principal of Advisory Services at Grant Thornton says, "Jargon is pervasive and persistent, plaguing our industry with buzzwords lacking substance. Anyone who works in business can relate to the overuse of corporate jargon, and, frankly, professional services providers are some of the main culprits."

If you want to stand out in a good way, think about removing the following overused words and phrases from your web and social communications.

Here are the top 40, ranked in order of most frequent usage:

  1. Best in class
  2. Value add
  3. Game changer
  4. Action plan
  5. On the same page
  6. Game plan
  7. Thought leadership
  8. Brainstorm
  9. Price point
  10. Organic growth
  11. Deep dive
  12. Customer centric
  13. In the pipeline
  14. Hit the ground running
  15. Moving parts
  16. Bring to the table
  17. Bang for your buck
  18. Laser focused
  19. Move the needle
  20. In the driver's seat
  21. Gatekeeper
  22. Low hanging fruit
  23. Lean in
  24. Jump ship
  25. Results driven
  26. Flesh out
  27. Up the ladder
  28. Bells and whistles
  29. All hands on deck
  30. Loop in
  31. Nuts and bolts
  32. Smoke and mirrors
  33. Drill down
  34. Back to the drawing board
  35. Action item
  36. Window of opportunity
  37. Out of the loop
  38. Pain point
  39. Think outside the box
  40. Reinvent the wheel

Don't feel bad if you're guilty of overusing some of the above; as I typed the list I realized I have a particular fondness for "flesh out" and "nuts and bolts."

Curious about the least-used buzzwords and jargon out of the 134 terms analyzed? Here are the bottom 10, in starting with the least-used:

  1. Kick (something) into the long grass (like, "Kick this problem into the long grass." I assume that means "Get it out of sight"?)
  2. Take it offline.
  3. Joined up thinking.
  4. Pulse check.
  5. Square the circle.
  6. Around the horn. (But the show is entertaining.)
  7. What's on your plate?
  8. Dot the Is and cross the Ts.
  9. Drink the Kool-Aid. (Every day someone at Kraft Foods probably says, with heavy sarcasm, "Thanks a lot, Jim Jones.")
  10. There is no "I" in "team."

But there is an "I" in "win," which is what you have a better chance of doing when you use plain language and accurate descriptions.

Where web and social -- as well as in-person -- communications are concerned, that's the best way to stand out.

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