The worst business buzzwords of 2016
Corporate jargon becomes more bizarre each year.
By Alexandra Cain
Almost every time I open an email I’m dismayed by the lack of understanding many people have about what constitutes good communication.
In particular, I have a high disdain for business buzzwords. For me, expressions such as going forward, circle back and reach out are among the most loathsome in the lexicon.
“Going forward” is a completely unnecessary phrase and can always be scratched from a sentence. The correct term to replace “circle back” is revisit. And the right word for “reach out” is contact.
These are perennials on the bad buzzwords list. New ones appear every year and this week I have put together a list of particularly annoying emerging words and phrases that rely on jargon. Try to avoid using these phrases at all costs.
Stephen Molloy, author of How apps are changing the world, nominates a couple of absolute corkers for business buzzword of the year. At the top of his list is the word “appvertising”, a portmanteau of advertising and apps.
“Appvertising is using applications to deliver branding, messages, content or functionality to reach target audiences using mobile devices or platforms,” Molloy explains.
My favourite in his list is “grofits”, which is when a business has growth as well as profits. Most companies demonstrate these traits and if they don’t they won’t be companies for very long. So why there’s a need for this word is beyond me.
Anthony Bianco, author of the travel blog The Travel Tart loves collecting useless buzzwords. On his list are phrases such as “low utilisation”. This means someone’s chargeable hours have dipped below 100 per cent. As a consequence, they may need to use another ridiculous buzzword to become more effective in their role: “ramp up”.
Bianco says ramp up means management has wasted so much time doing nothing it has to dramatically increase its employees’ workload to get a task finished on time.
According to Bianco, and I have to say I agree, “on leave” is a buzzword too. But it doesn’t mean you get to go on holiday, something we should all keep in mind at this time of year.
“It means you’re allowed to leave the office, but you still have to keep your phone on at all times and regularly check your emails,” he says.
On my list, in second place for worst buzzword is “make xyz great again”, emulating Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, make America great again. Now everyone wants to make something great - à la make China great again in this article. Note to people in branding - making something great again is already hackneyed, so avoid it.
But my winner this year is “UTTR”. This stands for up and to the right. Think of a graph where the trajectory of the trend is towards the top right hand corner, that’s UTTR. It tends to be used, unfortunately not ironically, when referring to growth strategies or success.
Phrases such as these never fail to amuse because although they are designed as business shorthand, they are actually a way of corporate control. Anyone coming into a business that uses terms such as UTTR won’t have a clue what it means - therefore they are outsiders. Only those in the know can understand these phrases.
Author Gabrielle Dolan has created a series of videos about what would happen if we applied corporate jargon to everyday life. She notes when we use vague words like jargon we destroy trust, while we build trust when more concrete words are used. “The more you use jargon, the more people think you are lying,” she says.
It’s important for businesses to recognise jargon is a tool for inclusion as well exclusion. More importantly, buzzwords are a lazy way of using language and should be discouraged.