Another 30 words and phrases you should stop using right now

For words 1-30, see thirty words and phrases you need to stop using today

31. Anticipate
Admit it, most of the time, when you use “anticipate” you do so simply because it’s got more syllables than “expect”, don’t you? Look them both up now. See, they mean different things, don’t they?

32. Value proposition
Any copywriter who tells you they can help you communicate your value proposition is like a priest who tells you they can recommend a good strip club: they’re either a charlatan or they’re slightly unhinged. The next person to draw on this nasty bit of marketing jargon when talking to me will be met with a quizzical stare and the question: “Value proposition? Value proposition? Why are you banging on at me about a cut-price offer in a brothel?”

33. Utilise
Use not utilise. Use use. Please.

34. Evangelist
Hang on, I’m only talking to you because I thought you were going to tell me a story so inspiring that people will still be relating it two millennia hence. Now you go and hit me with some drivel about a new platform for delivering integrated business intelligence solutions? Sorry, but that ain’t gonna get me up and dressed before noon every Sunday.

35. Narrative
Does anyone actually buy this nonsense about corporate campfires and storied products? Other than the marketing consultants who are making a lot of money narrating stories about narration?

36. Thought leader
If you claim to be a thought leader, then I’m sorry, but you aren’t a thought leader.

37. Value-add
Using the term “value-add” doesn’t make you sound impressively clued up and in charge. It makes you sound like Martin Lukes. If you don’t know who Martin Lukes is, order a book called Who Moved My Blackberry now. (It’s satire, by the way, not a manifesto for how you should conduct your life).

38. Reaching out
It made my skin crawl when this one started doing the rounds at my last firm as a substitution for “getting in touch with”. I thought it was cringey because it sounded so touchy-feely – until I heard Tony Soprano use it, at which point I realised it was actually completely sinister.

39. Roadmap
I feel a pang of sadness whenever I see tourists sitting in a café outside the Trevi Fountain with their nose stuck in a map. The corporate equivalent is the executive who’s so busy “building a roadmap for change” that they never get round to actually changing anything.

40. Facilitate
I hear the word facilitate and I smell the distinct whiff of the bureaucrat at work. A bureaucrat who facilitates his day such that everyone else does all the actual getting of stuff done.

41. Stakeholder
Shareholders = the people we really care about. Stakeholders = the people we have to pretend to care about. I tell you what, see this stake I’m holding in my hand? I plan to drive it slowly into your shinbone if you use that patronising descriptor of me one more time, OK?

42. Talent
Every single employee in your firm is talented, are they? Are you sure?

43. Deliver
Business people, if there’s one thing you can do to instantly sound more articulate, it’s to ditch this stupid word that you’d never contemplate using outside of the office. Do you “deliver love” to your kids? Or do you simply “love” them? Do you relax by “delivering cooking”? Or do you simply “cook”? Then why are you still delivering change/success/innovation and a whole host of other abstract nouns? And by the way, the addition of the word “on” or “against” after “deliver” doesn’t make you sound more impressive either.

44. Drive
And no, you can’t use “drive” instead of “deliver”. Unless you can articulate right now the difference between “driving change” and “delivering change”? Thought not.

45. Integrated
Business models, strategies, solutions – all the best ones are integrated apparently. I just wish I knew what it meant.

46. DNA
Do you keep referring to our corporate DNA because you’re planning to splice half our workforce with half the workforce of our main competitor, thus creating a genetically superior super-company from which all the defective DNA has been eliminated?

47. Learning
A vile, anaemic little word used instead of the word “education” by people who regard thinking as an elitist activity. Those same people often talk about their “key learnings”, suggesting that they are under the mistaken impression that pluralising a noun that can’t be pluralised and preceding it with the word “key” doesn’t make you sound illiterate at all.

48. Outcomes
Another one of those nouns that normal people never pluralise, but corporate types do. I guess it makes managers feel busier and more important if they’re striving after several “key outcomes” rather than just one.

49. Synergy
Everyone knows that synergies (especially leveraged ones) are a good thing. It’s just a shame that no one quite knows what they are. Except perhaps those terribly clever people who are now talking about the antonym of synergies, “disynergies”.

50. Regarding
In the words of my hero Harry Blamires, author of The Penguin Guide to Plain English: “It would be good advice to any writer to say, “If you are thinking of using the word ‘regarding’, don’t”.

51. Concerning
And no, you can’t use “concerning” instead of regarding, either. Trust me, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the word “about”.

52. Methodology
UK readers might recall the famous ’80s TV advert in which Maureen Lipman gets a call from her grandson telling her that he’s failed all his exams apart from pottery and sociology. Her response? “He gets an ology and he says he’s failed. You get an ology, you’re a scientist!” Use the word “methodology” (unless you really do mean “the study of methods”) and you’re that grandson.

53. Best practice
Otherwise known as “doing things properly”, “best practice” tends to be used by the sort of person who uses the word “methodology”. A best practice methodology for writers would be not to use the words “best” and “practice” next to each other, except in the sentence: “I mastered F Minor today – that was the best practice!”

54. Creep
Scope creep? Mission creep? Ugh, I’m starting to get irritation creep.

55. Reimagine
What do films, architecture, Christianity, the War on Terror, Yugoslavia and prosthetic arms all have in common? Well, they’re among the many things that have been “reimagined” in recent years. I just wish that this pompous, inflated word were in the dictionary so I could find out what it actually means.

56. Concept
Advertising concept. Concept album. Concept shop. Yep, “concept” is a word used by not very bright arty types to describe something that contains no concepts.

57. Granular
You could say you were looking at all the details, getting down to the nitty gritty as it were. But it sounds so much more impressively science-y to talk about adopting a granular analysis approach. So go on, say it that way. And dare me not to laugh.

58. Persons
Note to anyone considering posting an officious-sounding sign such as “Persons requiring service should request a ticket at the counter”: the plural of “person” is “people”, unless you really do want to sound like you’re arresting someone. Note to all those organisations whose remit is to help “older persons”, “persons with disabilities”, “displaced persons” or “trafficked persons”: calling them “persons” doesn’t make them sound individual and humanised; it sounds as if you’re a bit scared of them acting as a collective, as a group of “people”. Possibly with good reason.

59. Authentic
Doesn’t anyone else find it odd that there are so many books out there on “How to be an authentic leader”? I’m sorry, but can’t help thinking that it’s like jazz: if you have to ask . . . That said, I’m looking forward to reading the next publications in the series, namely: “How not to appear shallow”, “How to make like you care” and “How to fake not being the office sociopath”.

60. Pursuing new challenges
This phrase has the dubious distinction of being quite possibly the the most offensive euphemism for sacking someone ever invented. And in a world where downsizing has become rightsizing, that’s really saying something.

For words 1-30, see thirty words and phrases you need to stop using today


27 comments so far . . . come and pitch in!

  1. […] This post was Twitted by joannayoung […]

  2. Andrew Thompson says:

    Good work. Give us more!!

  3. Clare Lynch says:

    Oh, there’s plenty more where these came from, Andrew!

  4. Lucy says:

    Clare, I’m slain…

    I enjoyed this hugely, and – mostly – I agree (nodding and smiling) but I need ‘stakeholder’. Ouch! And I have to confess to ‘best practice’ too. Double ouch!

    Ideas for substitutes? Anyone? The problem is that these words serve as useful shorthand.

    I’m looking forward to the next 30. I’ll be sure to wear my armour next time.

  5. […] This post was Twitted by rachcolling […]

  6. Brad Shorr says:

    Clare, Do you purposely choose anti-spam words that should be banned? 🙂

    Your list is fabulous and like Andrew I cannot wait for more. I see a world where corporate marketers take your recommendations to heart and display hundreds and hundreds of web pages that are completely blank.

  7. Clare Lynch says:

    Lucy – of course, I wouldn’t really want you to stop using those words as I’d have nothing to write about on this blog (and very few clients!)

    Brad – hee, hee, guilty as charged on the anti-spam front. Blank corporate web pages – now there’s an SEO challenge for you!

  8. Brad Shorr says:

    Clare, Your little SEO quip has given me a smashing idea: reverse search. This would enable you to find the site that mentions, for instance, “granular methodology” the least number of times. (It’s certainly a firm I’d want to do business with.) Our blank page goes to the top of the list, leads pour in, prosperity reigns. What’s Google’s phone number …

  9. Chris says:

    Great list, Clare.

    But what’s wrong with having talent? Or a good concept?

    As someone who works in the financial services sector, you’ll no doubt be aware of the success VCCP’s Compare The Meerkat concept has brought Compare The Market.

    A brilliant concept by a talented team? Or not?

    But that’s just a minor gripe.

  10. Martin says:

    Brilliant as ever Clare – it is scary how many of these (and the original 30) have become an everyday part of office-speak.

  11. Jody Bruner says:

    Hi Clare, This is great!

    Good comment about what to use instead of these buzzwords. Strip them away and we see the emperor has no clothes, the web page no words. Writers need to use concrete images and examples. Trouble is, that requires hard work, eh.

    I also laughed when I saw the word narrative–it’s not something I see much in the corporate world. In my last life I studied narratives, and I did a project called “An Annotated Bibliography of Narrative Theory for Dance Researchers.” Just a few syllables there:)


  12. Clare Lynch says:

    Martin, when you say “an everyday part of office-speak”, don’t you mean “integrated into best-practice office narrative”?

  13. Clare Lynch says:

    Jody, speaking as someone who was an academic in a former life, that actually sounds like it might have been a useful tome for dance researchers. You’re lucky not to have encountered “narrative” outside of academe – you clearly need to warm your hands around that corporate campfire.

  14. Clare Lynch says:

    Chris, I have to confess to not having seen the Meerkat advert as, like most financial types, I don’t watch TV. (I don’t because I’m part snob, part addict; they don’t because they’re either working or downing champers in the Broadgate Corney and Barrow).

  15. Clare Lynch says:

    Brad – brilliant idea. Though, actually, it raises a serious SEO question that I’ve occasionally pondered. Should I describe myself on my website as someone who helps companies with their (no doubt keyword-rich) “stakeholder engagement strategies”? Or should I say I “help companies talk like human beings to the people that matter”?

    (Doh, the answer is obvious, now I think about it . . .)

  16. […] this page was mentioned by Jeri Dansky (@jeridansky), Aneel L (@aneel), liz_nicole (@liz_nicole), kgaltieri (@kgaltieri), kgaltieri (@kgaltieri) and others. […]

  17. Great stuff, although jargon has a legitimate place.
    Ironically enough, the anti-spam word I had to type to leave this comment was number 49, Synergy. Perhaps you set that up deliberately!

  18. Clare Lynch says:

    Thanks for popping by, Jonathan. That naughty spam filter – is someone playing tricks on my readers??

  19. Stephen Carville says:

    Brilliant! Loved this, Clare.

    Saw one today that made me think of you.

    “Making a difference team” was stitched onto the back of a jacket of a cleaner at Paddington station. A cleaner. “Excuse me sir, can I make a difference in the bathroom?”

    Undoubtedly the lady in question does a fantastic job, but it looks like this war against corporate non-speak (its like the War on Terror only with better shoes) has extended a new battlefront – bring on the seamstresses!

  20. Clare Lynch says:

    Love it, Stephen. I particularly like the fact that in their attempt to get as many buzzwords in there as they can they’ve made it sound illiterate.

    I can’t think of anything more demotivating than being patronised by my employer like this.

  21. Paul Mitchell says:

    Hello Clare, it’s your friend Paul here,

    I received the following CV from a creative-type and thought of you, because it not only contains quite a few of your banned words and phrases, but one I have never heard of before. Does anyone know what ‘ideation’ means? Is it a madey uppy marketing word?

    And anyone who calls themselves a ‘guru’ should have their ears boxed and their shins scraped.

    ‘I am a Marketing and Public Relations Guru and/or Manager in the TV/Entertainment Industry, Creative Director, Graphic Designer, Copywriter, and Producer.’

    ‘I am a creative thinker, a thought leader, with a passion for innovation and change. I am organized, enthusiastic, and a goal-oriented individual, committed to achieving success. I have a solid foundation in sales & marketing, design, project management, media planning, as well as excellent presentation and communication skills capable of leading and directing teams to measurable results.’

    ‘I have a passion for ideation, marketing, and innovation, and as your service provider, I will devote my talents to the success of your project and will help your business or service stand out in a crowd.’

  22. Clare Lynch says:

    Paul, you have to employ this person so you can pass on all the ridiculous things they say. Goodcopybadcopy is always on the look out for source material.

  23. Bill Harper says:

    The one going around work at the moment that cracks me up every tine: “pre-planning”.

  24. Clare Lynch says:

    But, Bill, one is always so much more prepared when one plans one’s planning.

  25. […] Stakeholders (No. 41) Sustainability (No. 4) Solutions (so awful it warranted a post of its own) Offerings (No. 3) […]

  26. Adv says:


    […]while the sites we link to below are completely unrelated to ours, we think they are worth a read, so have a look[…]…

  27. Tony says:

    To continue with this older post today’s BBC website has a corporate guff award. At no 38 on your list you have “Reaching out”, which I agree is a dreadful phrase, but according to the BBC article in order to talk with a group the phrase “reaching around” is now being used. Maybe I’ve been on some dodgy websites but I thought it meant something very different.

Leave a Reply