How to stop using office jargon in all your work emails


“In their declamations and speeches, they make use of words to veil and muffle their design.” 

That was the philosopher Plutarch talking about the Sophists, a group of ancient Greek teachers (in)famous for their long and convoluted arguments.

But if you’ve spent the last week sitting through (more) meetings and management huddles, then you’ll know that Plutarch’s wise words could just as easily apply to the 21st-century office professional – or at least a large proportion of them.

We’re talking about office jargon and corporate buzzwords, that peculiar way of communicating that seems to say everything about absolutely nothing.

Almost everybody talks in business jargon, but not everybody understands it. One study found that while 80% of US workers say they regularly repeat phrases like ‘blue sky thinking,’ around 33% admit that they don’t know what these strange combinations of words mean.

Office jargon is, quite literally, contagious. It passes from person to person like an office cold doing the winter rounds, infecting the way people speak and think.

The more we use jargon,  the more useless it (and we) become. Its overuse makes us dumber by stifling our ability to think in original and creative ways.

“Jargon is a cop-out; it masks real meaning,”  says Jennifer Chatman, a management professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.”

Cosmetics entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein was even more plain speaking when asked for her opinions on corporate talk.

“I hate business jargon, ” said Rubinstein, “I just hate it. Business jargon should be banished in favour of simple English. Simplicity is a sign of truth. Complexity can be a way of hiding the truth.”

That ‘complexity’ Rubinstein talks about can also hide incompetence. That’s what many office workers think. In a survey published by the Daily Mail newspaper, 90% of the 1,500 respondents said that using phrases like ‘touch base’ or ‘ahead of the curve’ is a clear sign that a manager is trying to cover up a lack of skills or experience.

So given that everybody seems to hate business jargon –  but still uses it on the daily – decided it was time for some straight talking.

Researchers from the online CV builder put together a list of the 11 most annoying examples of office jargon, including absolute classics like ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ and some of the more obscure phrases, like ‘boil the ocean’ (WHAT??!!??).

Then they translated these annoying cliches into everyday language and added some plain-speaking alternatives you and your team can use instead.

And we haven’t told you about the best part. Because they’re determined to help eradicate useless office jargon forever, the big brains at created a chrome extension plug-in that flags any workplace jargon creeping into your emails.

No more talk about “giving it 110%”, “thinking outside the box,” or “raising the bar.” Just clear and concise communication for getting the job done.

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