What Are the Most Annoying Business Buzzwords?

Typographic image featuring the word buzzword on a green background.

What business buzzwords drive you bonkers? We asked creative leaders that question and certain words and phrases popped up again and again.

As a creative professional, you may have managed to avoid the business buzzwords that creep into most people’s on-the-job vocabulary. But if you work for an in-house department or interact directly with corporate clients, chances are you’re asked to “think outside the box” or “take it to the next level.” And your reaction to such phrases is probably akin to hearing nails on a chalkboard.

But take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. The Creative Group recently asked more than 400 advertising and marketing executives to name the most annoying or overused buzzword in the creative industry today. Those surveyed said the following business buzzwords (or in some cases, phrases) were particularly cringeworthy. Here are some of the responses:

Most bothersome business buzzwords

  • “Out of pocket.”
  • “Leverage.” 
  • “Synergy.”
  • “Ideation. What a stupid word!”
  • “ROI.”
  • “Out of the box.”
  • “Our signals were crossed. Coworkers say this instead of admitting they misunderstood.”
  • “Moving forward.”
  • “LOL.”
  • “Amazing. It’s the most overused word in our industry — and society — today."
  • “Innovative.” 
  • “Good to go. My colleagues say this all day."
  • “It is what it is.”
  • “Take it to the next level.”
  • “Let’s take this off line.”
  • “Branding. An overused word to the point that it’s now meaningless.”
  • “Cutting edge.”

How to communicate with clarity

Using business buzzwords excessively is not only annoying but also confusing. Clients and other people outside your company or the creative community may even feel alienated when you use such terms. To avoid communication breakdowns (and eye rolls), it’s best to keep workplace jargon to a minimum. Here are some tips to ensure your messages are well received:

Thoroughly understand the subject. The more informed you are, the easier it will be to convey confidence and credibility. You’ll also be in a stronger position to defend your ideas should questions arise.

Organize your thoughts. Before you begin a discussion, presentation or email, define your objective. Do you want to inform people? Create a call to action? Consider using a formal outline or list of main points to keep yourself organized.

Know your audience. Think about the recipient of the message. Is it your manager? A coworker? A prospective client? Identifying your audience will help you determine the content and style of your communication. For example, while it may be safe to send informal, lingo-laden emails to your colleagues, you’ll want to pay extra attention when addressing a boss or client.

Get to the point. You want to capture your audience’s attention immediately so they will continue listening or reading. Let them know up front the topic you’re addressing and why it’s important to them.

Keep it simple. Steer clear of flowery language. Don’t try to roll a handful of thoughts into one breath. Instead, break up your ideas so they will be easier to comprehend.

Make the extra effort. Little things can make a big difference when it comes to communication on the job. When writing, proofread every document you send out. Don’t just look for typos; edit for clarity too.

While occasionally dropping a business buzzword in your communication is virtually unavoidable, you can create more compelling messages by replacing clichéd phrases with direct, concrete statements. That way, the next time someone receives your message, he or she will get it loud and clear.

It’s important to avoid jargon when you’re on the job hunt too. Read our post on buzzwords to keep out of your resume.

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