Banishing Buzzwords and Corporate Jargon

May 30, 2023

“Low-hanging fruit.” “New normal.” “Win-win.” If you winced reading these phrases, beware of Forbes’ list of the top 10 most annoying corporate jargon phrases.

While lawyers may have a reputation for using legal jargon, marketers are often accused of relying on business buzzwords or corporate jargon. Even though everyone uses jargon — some of us more than others — we all find it irritating. Beyond simply just being annoying, jargon is actually problematic. Here’s why:

Corporate jargon can be unclear, whether it’s too industry specific or too vague. What does helping clients to “move the needle” really mean, and how can this phrase possibly be meaningful when used in so many different contexts? Phrases that may have a double meaning, in both a literal and business sense, are especially confusing for non-native English speakers.

In other words, using jargon is counterproductive to the goals of connecting and engaging with your audience. It may even hurt your firm’s ability to recruit because younger workers say they strongly dislike jargon. Their generations prioritize authenticity, and buzzwords serve as a red flag that a person is using them “to cover up that they had no clue what they were talking about.”

The lessons here are to ensure that your firm’s communications actually foster understanding (rather than just posture) and come across as relatable. Banning these overused phrases can help you hold your firm’s external communications to a higher standard.

Using natural language will also help you communicate more authentically, truly reflecting your firm’s values and brand. This truly is as simple as encouraging your communicators to say what they mean. Here’s a “growth hack” for you (besides banishing “growth hack” from your vocabulary): It may be helpful to add a final round of editorial review to your standard process, in which you focus on rooting out these clichéd phrases and making sure the text is clear and succinct.

Authentic and clear communications are key to engaging readers and listeners, whether you’re targeting potential hires or existing clients. The most compelling, credible way to communicate is to tell your firm’s story in your firm’s voice.