A Bizspeak Blacklist

It’s mission-critical to be plain-spoken, whether you’re trying to be best-of-breed at outside-the-box thinking or simply incentivizing colleagues to achieve a paradigm shift in core-performance value-adds. Leading-edge leveraging of your plain-English skill set will ensure that your actionable items synergize future-proof assets with your global-knowledge repository. Just kidding. Seriously, though, it’s important to write plainly. You want to sound like a person, not an institution. But it’s hard to do, especially if you work with people who are addicted to buzzwords. It takes a lot of practice. 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 Many of these phrases have become voguish in business — abstain if you can. Sometimes people use them to enhance their own sense of belonging or to sound “in the know.” Or they’ve been taught that good writing is hyperformal, so they stiffen up and pile on the clichés. Hunt for offending phrases: Start looking for bizspeak in all kinds of documents, from memos to marketing plans, and you’ll find it everywhere. You’ll eventually learn to spot it — and avoid it — in your own writing. You’ll omit canned language such as Attached please find and other phrases that only clutter your message. Writing plainly means expressing ideas as straightforwardly as you can — without sacrificing meaning or tone. Think of it as bringing your written voice into line with your spoken voice. Bizspeak may seem like a convenient shorthand, but it suggests to readers that you’re on autopilot, thoughtlessly using boilerplate phrases that they’ve heard over and over. Brief, readable documents, by contrast, show care and thought — and earn people’s attention. This is the fifth post in Bryan A. Garner’s blog series on business writing. The series draws on advice in Garner’s new HBR Guide to Better Business Writing. Post 1: Don’t Anesthetize Your Colleagues with Bad Writing Post 2: A Well-Crafted Letter Still Gets the Job Done Post 3: Write E-Mails That People Won’t Ignore Post 4: Those Grammar Gaffes Will Get You
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