- When jargon is used appropriately, it can enhance communication and credibility. But when misused or misunderstood, it can have the opposite effect.
- A recent poll of 1,551 people revealed that despite one in five people disliking business buzzwords, they still use them for the sake of professional appearances.
- Among the findings, “win-win” ranked as the top buzzword, while “new normal” was deemed the most hated.
No matter how fluent you may be in the language, navigating the English-speaking business world can be like traversing a linguistic labyrinth. Buzzwords and jargon lurk around every corner, ready to trip up even the most eloquent non-native speakers (and sometimes, even the natives themselves).
These phrases, known as corporate speak, may seem like simple business terminology, but they hold a hidden double meaning that can make or break a professional interaction. When used appropriately, they can enhance communication and credibility. But when misused or misunderstood, they can have the opposite effect.
For those new to the corporate world, the thought of mastering yet another layer of language can be daunting. But in order to project professionalism and effectively communicate with colleagues, clients, and suppliers around the globe, understanding and utilizing these expressions is crucial.
A recent poll of 1,551 individuals revealed that despite one in five people disliking business buzzwords, they still use them for the sake of professional appearances. Among the findings, “win-win” ranked as the top buzzword, while “new normal” was deemed the most hated.
The term “new normal” has been dubbed as irksome by 43% of individuals, likely due to its correlation with the pandemic. Similarly, the word “culture” raised the same level of annoyance. It seems that not all corporate values are a cause for celebration — just like the overused phrase “circle back” (cue collective eye-roll). Another phrase that sparked distaste among 42% of respondents was “boots on the ground,” a phrase borrowed from the military that hinted at a looming and unpleasant battle.
As for the phrase “give 110%,” it was deemed exasperating by 41% of those surveyed.
Interestingly, the use of jargon in job descriptions can greatly influence an individual’s decision to apply for a role. One in five respondents viewed it as a red flag, signaling a potentially toxic work environment.
Here are 10 popular examples of business jargon, according to Preply.
- Close/end of play
- On the same page
- Low-hanging fruit
- Ducks in a row
- Outside the box
- Heads up
- Circle back
- Back burner
Business jargon to avoid:
“Rockstar” might sound cool, but when 53% of job applicants see this as a red flag, it might be a term to avoid. The term might bring to mind a high-demand role that requires superhuman effort.
Looking for a candidate who can “wear many hats” went down badly with half of respondents, perhaps because it suggests an unclear role, or too small a team to meet the demands of the job. Just behind that was “thick skin” (48%).
“Work hard, play hard,” is another troublesome phrasing — with 47% of survey participants saying it was a warning sign.
Another 44% were unhappy with “Schedule TBD” — understandably, as most candidates want to know their hours and the level of commitment required.
Where did this jargon come from?
But where did these buzzwords originate? Many have been borrowed from the sports and technology industries, while others are simply abbreviations or acronyms for commonly used phrases. For example, “touch base” comes from baseball, while “bandwidth” was originally used to describe internet capacity but now refers to an individual’s available time or attention span.
While jargon can serve as a convenient shortcut, its overuse can hinder clear communication and create a barrier between individuals. As a result, it’s important to use it wisely and in appropriate situations to project expertise and credibility without sacrificing clarity. So next time you hear someone say “let’s take a rain-check,” remember to decode the underlying meaning and keep your business English on point.