Don’t Make Me Cringe

Let's Talk About Business Jargon

Business jargon, also known as business-speak or corporate jargon, is rampant in the workplace. Here is the rule about how and when to use it to improve your communication: Don’t use it.

What’s Wrong with Business Jargon?

Terms like open the kimono and other business jargon are offensive, hackneyed, imprecise, and inspiring of great loathing. We regard business jargon derisively because it's speaking obliquely while using irritating or horrifying phrases: Vaguely aggressive, exploitative things like one throat to choke; bureaucratic imprecisions like learnings; psychobabble terms like core competency; or sinister euphemisms like human capital.

This is language deceptively streamlined to broadcast that everyone involved is so burdened by screaming time pressure that they don’t have time to communicate precise concepts in complete sentences. And in corporate-land, that’s a virtue. All of this that gets on everybody’s nerves.

Why do people adopt business jargon? Mostly because it gives employees a common tongue to compensate for the fact they work for companies that chew them up and spit them out. There was a time when people could work for a company fresh out of school and reliably stay there until they retired. Now people lose jobs without warning for reasons having nothing to do with performance. Hence the development of the term human resources.

Those who use it may be inured to the problems with business jargon, but the thinking behind these terms should be confronted head-on.

What to Do Instead

Speak directly, precisely, and without weird terminology. If your business needs widgets, and you want Joe in Procurement to call Acme Widget Corporation to determine whether they can get you a shipment of widgets by Thursday, say so. If someone asks why you want Acme Widget Corporation, tell them that’s because their widgets are durable and cost-effective, not that widgets are Acme’s core competency, which communicates absolutely no data. To communicate more effectively:

  • Use precise words, not jargon
  • Be direct and say what you mean

Read more about business jargon to avoid in this Writing Tip.

Cut the Clichés

Remove cringe-worthy business jargon from your writing and you’ll connect better with your readers. WordRake can help. It runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggested changes appear in the familiar track-changes style. Now you can get editing help to cut jargon from your documents and emails. Try WordRake for free for 7 days.

Our Story

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggested changes appear in the familiar track-changes style. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.