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BUZZKILL

20 words that make it harder for people to understand you at work

Investment banking meeting in Seoul, South Korea, 2015.
Reuters/Kim Jong-Hi
Attending meetings needn't be such a trying experience.
  • Ephrat Livni
By Ephrat Livni

Senior reporter, law & politics, DC.

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Have you ever been to a meeting and wondered what language people are speaking? The foreign tongue is likely business jargon—and piling it on ensures you won’t be heard, understood, or admired for your linguistic style.

To promote clear communication with its clients, the audit, tax, and advisory services firm Grant Thornton in Chicago just compiled an index of 120 trending business buzzwords. It’s based on an analysis of Fortune 500 company websites and the language those companies used on social media, as well as common phrases in business journalism, in the first quarter of 2018. The most popular terms will sound terribly familiar.

The top five business buzzwords

“Best in class” was the number-one buzzword in the first quarter, with over 71,000 uses on websites, social media, and in business press in the first three months of 2018.

Grent Thornton index/Ephrat Livni chart
Top five business buzzwords, charted by number of uses.

Top 20 buzzwords, and the number of Q1 uses:

From “thought leadership” to “move the needle.”

Grant Thornton index/Ephrat Livni list
Top 20 most popular jargon terms and number of uses in Q1.

Speaking in tongues:

For “thought leaders” who remain “laser focused” on a few overused phrases,  here’s a plea to retire jargon—in language that speaks to you.

Don’t write like this unless you’re kidding.

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