This week you may have seen our list of banned words and phrases shared across Twitter. 

This list forms a part of the Econsultancy style guide, issued to all new writers in the office, along with a set of Econsultancy temporary tattoos and a nightstick.

Why do we come down so hard on jargon?

As you’re no doubt aware, there are many problems with jargon...

People that regularly use jargon generally tend not to know what they’re talking about and more often than not use it in completely the wrong way:

“I don’t think you’re using ‘leverage’ correctly, sir”

“Tell that to the doughnuts I’m about to leverage down my throat.”

Unfortunately jargon is also a handy safety-net, especially when you need a shorthand way of saying something much more complicated.

I have gone to ridiculous lengths to avoid using the term millennials, unfortunately this leads to headlines such as: ‘How social media influences the demographic cohort following Generation X, who achieved adulthood roughly between the late 1990s and early 2000s’.

As the deputy editor, I find it incredibly helpful to keep with me a handy guide to non-jargony alternatives, this way I don’t have to spend 15 minutes of my day desperately thinking of a different way to say ‘blue sky thinking’.

I will share this list with you now…

Leverage

This is a secret codeword. If anyone uses it they are basically saying “help I don’t know what I’m doing here, I’ve been trapped in this building for 18 months and can’t find my way out. I wore this power-suit to an 80s themed fancy dress party, took a wrong turn and now I’m here, forced to attend regular two-hour long meetings and scrums. Also what’s a scrum?” 

Once you hear this codeword from your frightened colleague, just give them a subtle wink, put your arm around their shoulder and lead them out the fire exit.

Synergies

Synergy means to join together and make something even more powerful than the sum of its parts. Like when Pepsi and Coca-Cola joined forces to make Pepola, an energy drink that caused total renal failure within four sips, but if you made it to the fifth sip you could see through time.

The plural of synergy is something you should never say.

Touch base

“We need to talk” although this is normally followed by a break-up, so perhaps best to say “let’s talk/chat/meet-up”.

Unless you’re the kind of boss that wants to remind their employees of any emotional trauma they’ve experienced in their lives, in which case take them to a park, sit them on a bench, smile apologetically without saying anything for a short time, then say “we need to talk” and proceed to tell them that they’re being transferred to Alaska.

Paradigm shift

Some people got tired of saying “example” all the time, after all it’s a difficult word to say especially with that x in there; the most exhausting of all letters. So people started saying paradigm instead. This was a complete ‘paradigm shift’ away from the standard practice of saying example all the time. This is what people are referring to when they say ‘paradigm shift’, nothing more, so feel free to ignore them.

Learnings

If you’re going to use the phrase ‘here are our key learnings’ instead of ‘here is what we have learnt’ then may I recommend that you go out for a long walk and really think about what you’re trying to achieve with your time on Earth.

Leading

A baseless verb that seems to protect a company from having to do any actual research into how well they are doing in their particular field.

May I recommend either saying nothing or being honest and saying ‘third best CRM system provider in Chiswick’.

Solution

This is software, a product, or a service you’ve bought that will help you perform a particular task or function (email marketing, retargeting etc.).

Calling it a solution alludes to the fact that if you buy this software, product or service, then your problems are all over. This isn’t the case, as even though your email marketing campaign may be running more efficiently, the time you spend researching Gifs of Taylor Swift will get wildly out of hand and cause a whole new problem.

So yeah, we just call it software, product or service,

Incentivise

Manipulate people into performing an action with a reward that has little to no value.

Example:

“How do we incentivise people to carry on playing our ‘technically free’ app game?”

“Isn’t the reward just playing the game itself?”

“I don’t understand what you mean. Let’s just charge people for things in the game that will make it easier for them to play, before they realise what evil geniuses we really are.”

“Wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you actually refer to yourself as evil. The mask is finally slipping, huh?”

“YOU WILL KNEEL BEFORE MALEBOLGIA THE FATHER OF LIES”

Pivot

I think this has something to do with trying to get a sofa up two flights of stairs, but then my memory has been so badly affected by television that I could be wrong. Either way it has no place in your office. Unless you happen to be moving a sofa into your office, then you should definitely shout ‘pivot’ lots and smile at the nostalgia of it all.

Disruption

I wrote an article about disruption once. I got the meaning wrong. You see disruption doesn’t mean to disturb or interrupt an event or activity, oh no, it means to ‘transform an expensive, complicated product used by a small minority, by making it more affordable and accessible, and therefore creating a brand new market.’

Just remember that the next time a colleague says your company “needs to disrupt the market” and you go down to Spitalfields with a megaphone and a pack of wild dingoes.

Come to the party

I’ve never actually heard this one before. Nor have I ever been invited to any parties. It would therefore be heartbreaking to finally hear this in a meeting and then realise I’m not being invited to a party.

Diarise

I think you should be at home, in bed, with plenty of fluids.

Mission critical

Not even those in ground control said “mission critical” when everything was going tits-up for Apollo 13, so you definitely shouldn’t say it in relation to running low on ad inventory before the end of the quarter. 

Verbage

A word that means an ‘over-abundance of words used when something much simpler could be stated instead’. Hmmm… we should probably keep this one.

Actionable

Jacksonable.

Sense-check

Whoever uses this term has the ability to not only read a written proposal for clarity, but also smell, taste and touch it too. This person clearly has superhuman powers and should therefore be treated like your superior. Also see ‘Daredevil’.

Blue sky thinking

I can’t believe anyone has used this in the last three years unironically. If you’re in a situation where someone turns to you and says “that’s some blue sky thinking right there” with their tongue in cheek, go to HR and get them fired immediately. It’s only a matter of time before they start using it in a non-ironic manner.

Best in class

See ‘leading’.

Going forward

In the future? From now on?

There’s always been something vaguely passive-aggressive about the phrase ‘going forward’, perhaps because it alludes to something along the lines of ‘can you stop sucking at your job so much please’. However you’re not really allowed to say that anymore, so your manager will say ‘going forward’ instead.

Just remember that every time someone says 'going forward' to you, they really mean that you suck.

Big Data

Easy one this. For headlines, instead of saying ‘Big Data is the New Oil’, we would go with ‘The massive volume of data that has suddenly become available to us thanks to the rise of online traffic, which has in turn led to a need for accurate analytics packages and improvements in understanding the data accrued is the New Oil’. 

However we wouldn’t say ‘New Oil’ either. We’d say ‘New Bacon’. But only briefly, until we realised that was a stupid thing to say and we’d revert back to ‘a resource that if used correctly can be endlessly profitable, but that we have to be careful not to become too unhealthily obsessed by.’

So the full alternative to ‘Big Data is the New Oil’ would now read… Oh wait, my deadline is up.

Next week: 28 swear words banned from the Econsultancy blog and 15 you'll be surprised we are allowed to say.

You’ll be shocked at the results.

More hard-hitting journalism…

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 26 June, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (25)

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Parry Malm

Parry Malm, CEO at Phrasee Ltd.

I know for fact that the word "bollocks" is not allowed in headlines on Econsultancy. Interestingly, I wanted to use it for a blog post about BIG DATA. So yeah :)

over 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

Hmm... that's odd... our spam filter is letting you through. I'll turn up the power.

over 2 years ago

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Christopher Dugdale, SEO Manager at Tesco

I get the case presented for "solution", but what about using it in the sense that one comes-up with a solution to a problem. Or dissolving one substance into a solvent (okay, that one's less likely to be relevant to econsultancy).

Also, robust? It's to opposite of "flimsy", difficult to break; what's wrong with that?

over 2 years ago

David S. Tradewell

David S. Tradewell, Senior Vice President, Americas at Econsultancy

This is work of pure genius @chris :-)

over 2 years ago

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Len Diamond, Principal / Writer at Len Diamond Technical/Marketing Communications

Jargon often being the quickest way to convey an idea between consenting adults, it's going to go on going on. What needs to be done is convincing them to avoid using it with people outside their specialty. I used to try to do that when I worked with engineers, but I don't think I made any lasting impression.
Let me suggest a couple of my favorites to add to your list: "curate" for "swipe" and "drive" for just about everything.

over 2 years ago

Luke O'Kelley

Luke O'Kelley, Content Marketing Specialist at MLT Creative

This is hilarious. It's hard enough in the world of online marketing to keep up with the changing industry, but with all the jargon that is being thrown out these days it's near impossible to tell if something is an actual useful word that you need to know, or just a lost marketer's smokescreen.

I compiled a list of marketing buzzwords to try and provide some clarity: http://bit.ly/1Gybb5I

Feel free to check it out if you get a chance.

over 2 years ago

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Anne Marsden, Principal at Marsden Marketing

OK - you have to include Thought Leader on this list. Seriously - can one ever refer to oneself (or one's company) as a thought leader? Exception - if a company or person is refer to by others as a Thought Leader, then that's perfectly wonderful and acceptable.

And on the same train of thought - never, ever call your company a Trusted Advisor. Sure you want people to think of your company that way but all the synergistic solutions leveraged from big data that will surely disrupt your market cannot pivot you to a point where you can call yourself a Trusted Advisor.

over 2 years ago

Will Paccione

Will Paccione, Internet Consultant at Dot Xero

How about "Hacks" when everyone can just say "Tips".
"Work day hacks to keep productive".
So annoying. Haha

over 2 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

Social: see anti-social.

over 2 years ago

Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert, CEO at Brainlabs

Love it!

over 2 years ago

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Thomas Lawrence, Founder at Breakfast Like a Sir

When writing a blog about the language we use as a society, hoping to act as an authority on the subject, I'd argue it's pretty important to ACTUALLY CHECK the language you've used... "As you’re not doubt aware, there are many problems with jargon..." Impressive.

over 2 years ago

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Thomas Lawrence, Founder at Breakfast Like a Sir

Having said that, I agree with most of this.

over 2 years ago

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Andrew Prout, Digital Fundraising Manager at VSO

Great article and spot on with so many of these jargon words, my pet hate 'close of play'. Surely just 'end of the day' is fine?

over 2 years ago

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Andrew Doughty, Business Change Consultant at CTR Europe

This is a leading example of the paradigm shift that our industry has undertaken in recent years, largely driven by the synergies facilitated through learnings from big data. Going forward can I assume that we should expect a post containing best in class Taylor Swift Gifs?

over 2 years ago

James Carson

James Carson, Founder at Made From MediaSmall Business Multi-user

My favourite, from Silicon Valley TV series:

Erlich: Richard, if you're not an asshole, it creates this kind of asshole vacuum, and that void is filled by other assholes, like Jared. I mean, you almost gave him shares. You need to completely change who you are, Richard. A complete teutonic shift has to happen.
Richard: Tectonic.
Erlich: What?
Richard: A "tectonic" shift is the earth's crust moving around. "Teutonic", which is what you just said, is an ancient Germanic tribe that fought the Romans. They were originally from Scandinavia...
Erlich: Stop it! Stop it. You're being a complete tool right now. I need you to be a complete asshole.

over 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@James - I'd include the diagram of 'optimal tip-to-tip efficiency' but... well... you know.

over 2 years ago

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Janet Sailian, Communications Consultant at CCAE

Love the humour and snark in this post! And so true. "Out of the box" grinds my teeth.

over 2 years ago

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Joel Fielder, Director at Switchplane LtdSmall Business

What about the despicable "ongoing"?

over 2 years ago

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Hannah Rogan, Freelance copywriter and marketeer at Self Employed

Can you add 'joined up thinking' to the list? It's on my 'Top Ten List of Management F***wattage That Should Definitely Never Be Used By A Normal Person'.

over 2 years ago

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Hannah Rogan, Freelance copywriter and marketeer at Self Employed

So I wrote 'F***w-I-ttage in that post and got autocorrected - now I look like a fool, especially if it happens again!

over 2 years ago

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David Brooks, deputy project manager at Direct Line Group

Great list. You could also add calling things "dead' or "king".

over 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Hannah - 'F**kwattage!' It's what powers the stupidest ideas.

over 2 years ago

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Hannah Rogan, Freelance copywriter and marketeer at Self Employed

@Christopher Ratcliffe Ha ha! I shall add it to my vocabulary immediately.

over 2 years ago

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Mark Harris, MD at Promereo Ltd

Reach out.

over 2 years ago

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Mr Williams, Digital Marketing Manager - Global at CommScope

I think that unless you are a member of the band "The Four Tops" there is absolutely no reason to "reach out" to anyone. Call them, text them, message them - but please stop reaching out. I just have a vision of zombies walking towards me - reaching out.

about 2 years ago

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