50 Epic Jargon Solutions for Better Writing

50 Epic Jargon Solutions for Better Writing

Lists of business jargon are a dime a dozen. To make this one worth your time, I’m going to:

  • Create a comprehensive list of words and phrases encountered in everyday business writing
  • Suggest better alternatives so you can add meaning and persuasive power to your blog posts

This means that you will be understood, create more impact and attract more readers to your blog and website. So here are some solutions for better writing to tweak and hone your communication.

1.   At the end of the day. Any time you write this phrase, your next step is to delete it.

2. Awesome. If you’re describing the Grand Canyon or the dimensions of the universe, awesome is fine. Otherwise, find a less sensational (i.e., more realistic) adjective, such as outstanding or exceptional.

3. Bandwidth. This is a euphemism to make we don’t have time sound like it’s part of the plan. If you simply say you don’t have the time or resources, people will respect your frankness.

4. Bleeding edge. With so many companies on the bleeding edge, it’s no wonder the economy is hemorrhaging. Overstatements such as this inspire skepticism. Instead, talk about your groundbreaking business model or new approach.

5. Brain surgery. This isn’t brain surgery has been so overused it carries comical overtones the author may not intend. Better to operate with a straightforward word like complicated.

6. Buy-in. Try support or agreement instead.

7. Champion (as a verb). Replace with support, defend or perhaps spearhead.

8. Content is king. A massively overused metaphor that lets people know you don’t understand content. Why? Because king metaphors apply when a clear, measurable hierarchy exists; e.g., The blueberry is the king of antioxidants. Content is one element of a complex marketing system in which all components have unique and essential value. Homework and discussion: What is a simple metaphor for that?

9. Core competencies. A fancy way of saying we’re good at this. There’s nothing wrong with saying we specialize in this, or we excel at this.

10. Cutting edge. See bleeding edge.

11. Deep dive. Overuse has sunk this way of describing a thorough analysis. Try explore, analyze, or the soon-to-be-overused unpack.

12. Disconnect (as a noun). This word is not only overused, it’s also vague. Does disconnect imply a difference of opinion or just a misunderstanding? Clear up the confusion by using the former or latter.

13. Disruptive. If a product or business model is truly disruptive, you don’t need to describe it as such; it will speak for itself.

14. Drill down. Replace with look more closely at.

15. Drink the Kool-Aid. This phrase was gruesomely powerful in the ‘80s, when the Jonestown Massacre was fresh in people’s minds. With overuse, the phrase has become vague: Does it mean a person is a fanatic, believes in something evil, or just toes the company line? Think about what you really mean and use a more precise description.

16. Ducks in a row. A silly way of saying we’re ready or organized.

17. Ecosystem. Ecosystem can describe Microsoft Windows or Apple, where users have deep and broad interaction with products and services in a closed system. For the most part, however, ecosystem is an overreach. In most business situations, ecosystems are merely systems or networks or product groups.

18. Empower. Better options are assign responsibility or delegate responsibility.  Besides being overused, empower has a bad business vibe, as it suggests class warfare.

19. Epic (as an adjective). Epic describes something of heroic, sweeping proportions. Applying the word to business content or situations is an epic overstatement that serious-minded people won’t take seriously. A simple adjective like useful or memorable carries more weight.

20. Get on board. See buy-in.

21. Going forward. For the most part, this phrase can be eliminated: Going forward, we will hire 10 people.

22. Guru. If others describe you as a guru, people will be skeptical. If you describe yourself as a guru, people will laugh in your face.

23. Holistic. Comprehensive or complete is more straightforward.

24. Ideation. To ideate is to form ideas or concepts. The word is frequently used in a clinical (and rather ominous) context, such as suicidal ideation. In business, stick with phrases such as develop a strategy or brainstorming session.

25. Impact (as a verb). Grammatically correct options: have an impact on or have an effect on or simply affect.

26. Incentivize. A mouthful of mush that means motivate.

27. Innovative. Describing a product or service as innovative means nothing. You have to explain in what way the product is innovative. Since most things described as innovative aren’t, this can be a daunting task.

28. Key takeaways. A puffed up way of describing important points.

29. Knowledge transfer. We’ll teach you beats We’ll engage in knowledge transfer by six syllables and a country mile.

30. Leaders. Everybody is a leader in this or a leader in that – so what? Here’s a case where frankness and modesty paradoxically arouse interest. If you claim only that you’re good at this or that, people may actually take notice.

31. Learnings. Ironically, this is not even a real word. Teachings or lessons, on the other hand, are.

32. Leverage (as a verb). Instead of, we leverage our volume to offer low prices, try, our volume enables us to offer low prices.

33. Low-hanging fruit. This phrase drives people bananas. Pear down fruit metaphors and juice up clarity with easy opportunities or easy options.

34. Mission-critical. What’s the difference between critical and mission-critical? Unless you want to sound like an astronaut, stick with critical.

35. Move the needle. This means to get meaningful or measurable results. Why not, then, say one or the other?

36. Ninja. See guru.

37. On the same page. In the old days, we were singing from the same sheet of music. Now, we’re on the same page. In any era, it’s easier to simply say, we agree.

38. Open the kimono. If you’re sharing secrets or proprietary information, just share them and be done with it. There’s no upside to bringing hidden body parts into the discussion.  

39. Outside the box. Ironically, using this tired phrase alerts people that you have no creativity whatsoever. Instead, talk about creative or imaginative thinking.

40. Paradigm shift. If you say significant change or fundamental change, people will actually understand what you’re talking about.

41. Push the envelope. This could mean to act aggressively, assume risk, expand the boundaries of, or advance to the boundary.  Think about what you mean exactly, and then describe it.

42. Quite frankly. Use this phrase only when you want people to know you’re being otherwise deceptive and insincere.

43. Raise the bar. This means to set a higher standard, which sounds a whole lot better.

44. Rock star. See guru and ninja.

45. Rocket science. See brain surgery.

46. Solutions. For my money, the worst word in the world. When people hear solutions, they think, “Here’s a complicated product that will create more problems than it solves.” Or, their minds simply go blank because they’ve heard the word a million times. Replace solutions with specific benefits; e.g., This product simplifies household budgeting.

47. Soup to nuts. To avoid coming off like a buffoon, substitute comprehensive or complete.

48. Synergy. When things synergize, they combine to have a greater impact than they can achieve on their own. Synergy is a useful business concept, but the word has been run into the ground. The key is to avoid synergy when you mean only collaboration, cooperation or consolidation. 

49. Thought leader. See guru, ninja and rock star.

50. World class. A bold statement that should be used only to describe proven and widely accepted products, services, systems and organizations. Even then, it doesn’t convey anything concrete. As with solutions, it is far more persuasive to describe the standout quality of the subject in question: Our customer service reps answer every call within one ring. 

(Note: The Straight North content team used our real life business writing and editing experience to compile these 50 entries.)

Over to You

What words or phrases can you add to the list – and what are better replacements?

 

Listen to this post as a podcast.

 

 

Guest author: Brad Shorr is Director of B2B Marketing for Straight North, an Internet marketing agency headquartered in Chicago. He is an experienced content strategist, respected blogger, and SEO copywriter. Connect with him on Twitter @bradshorr.

 

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Comments

  • http://blog.tianakai.com/ Tiana Kai

    “Content is king” kills me every time. I’ve heard that for years and it’s irritating that it’s making a comeback, not on my blog though! 😉

  • http://thebrokerlist.com/ Customer Service

    I enjoyed this blog and want to learn, but my question is why you chose to use “Epic” in the title, in this case?

    • Brent

      Facetiousness.

  • Noya Lizor

    Some truly cringe-worthy jargon on that list. Eek!
    Might want to re-think #19 or rethink the title of this post though 😉

    • http://www.straightnorth.com Brad Shorr

      I thought it would be funny to use awful jargon in the title itself. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

    • http://www.prairiefoxweb.com/ Leah Mazur

      haha nice catch! I guess everyone falls into the jargon trap at some point

  • http://www.iainswanstononline.com/ Iain Swanston

    Wow – pleased, lucky and relieved to say I haven’t used any of those on my own blog. I do however consistently score low in the Flesch Reading score which suggests my own writing is wooden, obtuse and difficult to comprehend.

  • Martiel Beatty

    Great list Jeff! I see these all the time with new bloggers and knowing what you ca use as an alternative it important – frankly, most people use them because they think it will help with their traffic. I’m trilled you published this list and I’ll be sharing it with my clients, it’s a great resource!

  • http://smallbusinesstalent.com/ Stephen Lahey

    Good advice, and the list made me laugh – thanks Jeff!

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    Now I’m going to have to look at this list before I publish a post :)

  • Alice Manning

    Thanks! If I hear “Content is king” one more time… And thanks for the alternatives, too. This was an informative post that made me both cringe and laugh.

  • http://www.thesocialsyndicate.com/ Michael Naughton

    “Rock Stars,” Newbies…” “Action items…” tired words and phrases.

    • http://www.straightnorth.com Brad Shorr

      Your comment made me notice “action items” is tired AND redundant. “Actions” are items.

  • http://www.cottageblogger.com/ Heather Bayer

    I try not the ‘reach out’, ‘take a helicopter view’ or put anything in ‘the hopper’ as well.

    • http://www.straightnorth.com Brad Shorr

      Or a 10,000-foot view, 30,000-foot view or 50,000-foot view.

  • venkyiyer58

    You missed game changer and trend setter.

  • Shaun

    Nice Post Jeff
    http://crokes.com

  • http://www.prontomarketing.com/ Tim Kelsey

    I’d be interested in seeing what replacements for “Content is king” people have. It’s been such a wide-spread metaphor because it quickly and easily explains the importance of content to clients.

    Agreed that it’s overused and needs to stop, but it’s hard to explain the complexity of the role content plays in larger marketing strategies.

    One alternative I’ve used is “Content is the fuel for your Internet Marketing engine.” Any others out there?

    • http://www.straightnorth.com Brad Shorr

      Tim, Your fuel metaphor is vastly superior to the king metaphor because yours actually makes sense. Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://www.reallygoodseo.co.uk/ Kate Tolley

    Can I suggest “quality content” (or “quality [anything]”, really) as another overused phrase that needs to be retired? On its own it means absolutely nothing (is it high quality or low quality?) yet I keep reading about the importance of it, often from people who are trying to sell their services as writers of said content. I would expect such folks to have a better command of language.

    • http://www.straightnorth.com Brad Shorr

      In my area (Chicago), “quality” this or that has served as a slang term for excellent for as long as I can remember. But as you point out, it isn’t widely accepted usage and probably confuses people more than anything.

  • Danzo1000

    Crap. Now I have to redo the landing page of my website.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    I may have to rise to the challenge to integrate every one of these wonderful expressions into a masterful piece of link bait prose that inspires a massive viral wave in the electron sphere so that people will recognize just how truly zooming real communication blossoms into when it achieves the pinnacle of its summit of success.

  • SooBrett

    “Content is the kingpin of …”? Almost the same but more accurate. A kingpin is a pivotal component, essential to the success of something.

    An excellent and thought-provoking list, Jeff. I’ve always been keen on avoiding hyperbole and exclusive terminology, but I confess with shame to using some of your listed words. Is there anyone who hasn’t used “epic” or “awesome” inappropriately at some time or other?

    One you have missed is “creative”. Before every one started using it, creative was an accurate description of what I am and what I do. Now it’s meaningless.

    • http://www.straightnorth.com Brad Shorr

      Kingpin is much better than king — great suggestion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001306884464 Eli J. Pacheco

    I hate “circle back.”

  • http://www.straightnorth.com Brad Shorr

    Ugly is a great description of that word.

  • raimster

    I have a profound disklike of lists that tell people what they should or should not …insert thing (say / do / feel).

    It is a subtle but powerful way of shaming people for incredibly
    silly things.

    • Eva Rinaldi

      People need to be shamed for jargon. Over and over again. I am not ashamed for believing this.

  • Jocelyn Brady

    Seamless must die!

    • http://www.straightnorth.com Brad Shorr

      Unless you are in the clothing industry, there can be no argument here.

  • Larry Taylor

    I want to add ‘Blessed’ – As seen used by the successful and wealthy in writing press releases. See also ‘Humblebrag’. Try ‘lucky’ instead…

    Humblebrag: How great your life is, but it’s hard also. E.g. When your Champagne goes warm in the jacuzzi.

  • treb072410

    Great read.. It was really helpful.. Thanks for sharing!…

  • Alvin Linton

    Great piece,I must confess I am guilty of using some of these jargons.

  • http://twitter.com/niboltai Will

    At the end of the day, you’re awesome if you can employ bandwidth to move your company from the bleeding edge–as complicated as brain surgery. The only catch: You have to buy-in to champion the idea that content is king and that a set of core competencies can speed your content to the cutting edge. Take a deep dive and disconnect from the disruptive drill downs that happen while the minions drink the Kool-Aid from the proverbial fount. Be sure to get your ducks in a row to flood the workplace ecosystem with empowered epicness–a sure way to ensure that everyone gets on board with going forward. I may not be a guru, but my holistic ideation of the world fuels me to impact and incentivize innovative key takeaways during knowledge transfers to my fellow leaders. The learnings? That you can leverage the consumption of low-hanging fruit to complete mission-critical objectives that move the needle to green. Some might say that I am a marketing ninja, but I’m not even on the same page as a ninja: I’ll open the kimono and tell you that I am a king of outside the box thinking. I see paradigm shifts before they happen and push the envelope to, quite frankly, raise the bar so that I attain rock star status. It ain’t rocket science, people. It’s solutions. The soup to nuts guide to synergy among your peers, or “How to be a thought leader of world class proportions,” is simple: Use your goddamn jargon.

  • Julie Lynn Collins

    May I add the use of “office” as a verb? As in “Where do you office?” And perhaps “Old World Charm” (since I often write for the real estate industry!) ??

  • Brent

    I work in the advertising business, where acronyms, jargon and lexicon are used to create a kind of mystique that justifies companies engaging the services of advertising agencies. And because what I do, write, together with an art director, is called “creative”(noun and adjective), there’s a difficulty quantifying our service. So the more mystifying it is the better, because then the price attached to the service becomes unquestionable. And apparently the magic I and others like me perform is often worth a king’s ransom.
    I know that many clients sit in meetings with their agencies feeling like jokes are being told and they’re not getting them. Nobody wants to admit they don’t get a joke when everybody else is laughing so they keep their mouths shut.
    Advertising, like the entertainment business, is ideal for charlatans. They adopt the “lingo” and brazenly drop these words so they look and sound like they know what they’re talking about.
    Currently “advertising” people are trying to ditch the word advertising and replace it with “Brand”. You look on LinkedIn to find a copywriter or account executive and you will be amazed by the number of “brand experts” there are. People who specialize in the brand experience, brand presence, brand interaction, brand clarity. The word “brand” is an unnecessary qualifier in every case.
    Want to know what a brand is? It’s a mark burned into the hide of cattle to identify ownership. Yes brands have evolved but there is nothing particularly mystifying about them. If there’s anything that is confusing the hell out of business writers and just about everybody else, it’s media.

  • richb

    did he really write these items “drive him bananas” ?

  • Amit Sharma

    I offer a jargon density checker – http://jargonbuster.repairtxt.com/