How to spot jargon, then substitute what you really mean

After repeated use, corporate buzzwords and jargon have a way of starting to sound like normal words — the kind of words that regular folks use in every day conversation. Except, they’re not.

These semantic shortcuts explain nothing, but they sound like they might. Corporate-speak is easier, but far less effective, than describing something simply. (Einstein wasn’t a genius only about physics!)


One of the biggest tragedies of buzzwords is that they don’t just turn people’s emails, memos and presentations into a wasteland of cliches, they also dislodge creativity and smother fresh thinking.

Instead of using a new way to explain a product to a customer, a salesperson plucks out a generic jargon phrase like “best of breed” or “game changer.” But that doesn’t tell the customer anything, really. It doesn’t offer a unique attribute. It doesn’t say why the product will help the customer solve a problem. Or why the product will make a task easier or more efficient.

Zapping corporate buzz words and jargon from work-related writing and speaking takes discipline. And that’s because most of us are now desensitized from even noticing them.

Clues, however, exist. What follows are four categories that cover most buzzwords or jargon.

  • Nouns as verbs
  • Verbs as nouns
  • Work that’s not done in an office
  • Nonsense

An infographic I created shows common offenders in each category. And it offers substitutions. I made it using Piktochart, one of my new favorite presentation tools. (This best viewed using Chrome or Firefox browsers and can look distorted, otherwise.)

The next in this series of two posts on buzzwords will focus on how to banish them when you find them creeping into your memos or emails. And also how to avoid them in the first place by having a great list of words to use as substitutes.

I’d love to hear what you think.

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