Blog Excerpts

Words to Avoid in Business Writing

Last week, usage guru and author of Garner's Modern American Usage Bryan A. Garner collected a list of business-speak or "bizspeak" to avoid and posted it to the Harvard Business Review blog. What he describes as "vogueish" and "hyperformal" vocabulary makes an easy target. (For more on why business-speak tends to stick around in spite of the fact that even corporations themselves are making fun of it, see "Why Corporate Words Rankle.")

Here, Garner suggests eliminating the following terms from your vocabulary.

Back when journalists were somewhat more fastidious with the language than they are today, newspaper editors often kept an "index expurgatorius": a roster of words and phrases that under no circumstances (except perhaps in a damning quote) would find their way into print.

Here's such a list for the business writer. (Thanks to my Twitter followers for their contributions.) Of course, it's just a starting point — add to it as you come across other examples of bizspeak that hinder communication by substituting clichés for actual thought.

Bizspeak Blacklist

  • actionable (apart from legal action)
  • agreeance
  • as per
  • at the end of the day
  • back of the envelope
  • bandwidth (outside electronics)
  • bring our A game
  • client-centered
  • come-to-Jesus
  • core competency
  • CYA
  • drill down
  • ducks in a row
  • forward initiative
  • going forward
  • go rogue
  • guesstimate
  • harvesting efficiencies
  • hit the ground running
  • impact, vb.
  • incent
  • incentivize
  • impactful
  • kick the can down the road
  • let's do lunch
  • let's take this offline
  • level the playing field
  • leverage, vb.
  • liaise
  • mission-critical
  • monetize
  • net-net
  • on the same page
  • operationalize
  • optimize
  • out of pocket (except in reference to expenses)
  • paradigm shift
  • parameters
  • per
  • planful
  • push the envelope
  • pursuant to
  • putting lipstick on a pig
  • recontextualize
  • repurpose
  • rightsized
  • sacred cow
  • scalable
  • seamless integration
  • seismic shift (outside earthquake references)
  • smartsized
  • strategic alliance
  • strategic dynamism
  • synergize
  • synergy
  • think outside the box
  • throw it against the wall and see if it sticks
  • throw under the bus
  • turnkey
  • under the radar
  • utilization, utilize
  • value-added
  • verbage (the correct term is verbiage — in reference only to verbose phrasings)
  • where the rubber meets the road
  • win-win

Read the rest of Garner's piece here.

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Comments from our users:

Tuesday April 9th 2013, 6:51 AM
Comment by: ClaireK (Raleigh, NC)
My list would not be complete without;

"Vis-a-vis" and "vice versa

"Juxta position"

Addressing an audience as "people" (okay people, let's get started") or even worse "you guys).

Using terms like "clearly" before a sentence that has already been made obvious to the audience. Sometimes the term is used as verbal padding two or three times in a sentence.
Tuesday April 9th 2013, 4:33 PM
Comment by: MzBarby (UT)
Spend as a noun. "We need to reduce our spend on travel this month"

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