10 business words to stop saying immediately

Choose your words wisely.
Choose your words wisely.
Image: Reuters/Srdjan Zivulovic
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Your word choices say a lot about your understanding of the nuances of language. Some people pick longer words that may lose those individuals who don’t understand. They also risk coming across as self-important types.

Then there are those who speak with acronyms and abbreviations as if we all understand their wonky world. People in technology do this, sometimes referring to their SaaS-based CRM products (that’s customer relationship management software based in remote servers).

There are many ways to lose people in the weeds of poor word choices. But there’s one group of tin-eared types you really want to avoid joining: that’s those people who use business jargon when they speak or write. This can come across as pretentious and uninformed.

For background, I spent over a decade as a news editor and dedicated daily time to the eradication of these gaffes from news copy written by professional journalists. Note to PR people: they crop up in many a press release as well, of course.

Without further fuss, here’s my list of 10 boneheaded business words to avoid.

1. Monetize

This word gets slipped out a lot by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs: “We aren’t going to worry about how to monetize our app just yet.”

2. Seamless

Business software product managers use this word to talk about how their cloud-based CRM software offers seamless integration with other software.

3. Solution

This word rears its ugly head everywhere and can frequently be spotted in press releases and copy from reporters. The software solution is poised to disrupt the industry, for example.

4. Synergy

Executives like to talk about the benefits of synergies when they merge with other companies, but what really happens is redundancies that result in layoffs.

5. Leverage

Companies sometimes go all out and tout that a partnership deal is going to leverage their synergies with another company. These releases can leverage my email’s trash to go away.

6. Ecosystem

All hell broke lose when Apple came out with the iPhone. Reporters, analysts and executives expressed ad nauseam how it worked well with Apple’s ecosystem, including iTunes.

7. Ask (noun)

Some people refer to a proposition as “the ask” as if it were a catchy new noun. I say pick up a dictionary because you will learn “the ask” is not there. Do your yourself a favor: lose it or risk ridicule.

8. Learnings (plural noun)

The same crowd that speaks of “the ask” as a noun also uses learnings as a noun. Ditto goes for the remarks above for learnings.

9. Productize

The use of productize comes up in conversation now and then and may seem a regular industrial process or some sort of product revolution. In fact, it’s a product of ignorance.

10. Takeaway (noun)

People use takeaway to describe the one big insight to leave with. If you take away the above 10 words from your vocabulary, you may discover better ones that don’t make people wince.