There are plenty of these lists around but as a writer with a scientific education I feel well qualified to create my own.
These are the words I find most objectionable, used by consultants who feel clarity is akin to nakedness.
As usual, add your own below.
1. ‘Around’ as a preposition
We should have thoughts on a subject, or talk about something.
However, many in marketing and advertising are so used to fudging the specifics of anything (for fear of looking stupid or perhaps confrontational) that the word around has become their go-to (even universal) preposition when speaking to people.
They use this word to say silly things like “We’ve developed a solution around CRM”.
The word has a horrible fluffiness about it. Doubtless I have used it myself in the past, being vague enough to pass for knowledgeable. But we need to cut it out.
Today I was reading a tech company website which featured the phrase, ‘we have a passion around product development.’
No, no, no.
2. ‘Across the piece’
A piece is a chunk, or a work of art, or slang for a gun. In horrible business speak it means ‘throughout’ or ‘across the board’.
We don’t even really know where this misuse comes from. Just stop it, it makes you sound self-important.
‘Bespoke’ simply means made to order.
But when consultants use it they speak with such veneration as if to suggest the craftsmen and women involved will never work again after completing your work.
Of course, a blimmin’ website design is bespoke – even if you use that same old Umbraco or WordPress template, you still have to do some tinkering.
Hyphenated because this phrase is used as an adjective, as in ‘best-in-class solution’. ‘Best of breed’ is used, too, and is even worse.
Undoubtedly, consultants must have an opinion on the best technology available. However, I think this phrase betrays a consultant more interested in conflating the value of their consultancy with the value of a chosen technology (and less interested in client needs).
Solution is an overused word, too, but I haven’t included it in this list. (It is, however, on Econsultancy’s list of words that are banned from the blog.)
5. ‘Move the needle’
A generic phrase; if efforts do not ‘move the needle’, they have not been successful.
I think consultants like this one because the needle implies some level of unpredictability (it evokes geological or medical equipment). Therefore, if the needle doesn’t move, it isn’t necessarily the consultant’s fault.
All aboard the good ship Bollocks.
7. ‘North of’
Otherwise known as ‘greater than’, but makes the consultant feel like an intrepid explorer.
8. ‘Action’ as a verb
To co-opt Nike’s slogan, just ‘do’ it.
9. ‘Leverage’ as a verb
There’s barely need to add any justification here. Leverage is a well known evil.
Okay, you’ll find some dictionaries that say it’s perfectly fine to use ‘leverage’ to mean ‘use (something) to full advantage’.
However, the word’s mechanical other meaning makes it sound like consultants are implicating great effort (where there is only simple strategic thought).
Just say ‘slides’ or ‘presentation’. Otherwise I will call you a word that sounds like ‘deck’ when said in an New Zealand accent.
Words & phrases that nearly made it on to my list
- ‘Line of sight’
- ‘Into the weeds’