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.

3. 'Bespoke'

'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.

4. 'Best-in-class'

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.

6. 'Onboarding'

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).

10. 'Deck'

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'
  • 'Delta'
  • 'Into the weeds'
Ben Davis

Published 16 November, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

1230 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (13)

Save or Cancel
Morgan Jones

Morgan Jones, Digital Manager at Freestone Creative

Surely 'Deep Dive' should make it into a list like this? It makes the consultant sound like they're Jacques Cousteau when all they really mean is that they will 'read' the data in a bit more depth. Surely that is their job anyway?

over 1 year ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

@Morgan I wholeheartedly agree.

over 1 year ago

Gary Chambers

Gary Chambers, Proprietor at SEO Websites

My pet hate is "Going Forward" as an afterthought at the end of a sentence. Followed closely by "Keep across for you" in BBC News programmes. They should know better.

over 1 year ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

@Gary Agree with both, though do believe 'going forward' is being normalised. It bugs me a lot less than it used to.

over 1 year ago

Huw Waters

Huw Waters, Head of Marketing at Capita Learning Services

You should try Kevin Duncan's new Business Bullshit book. Some absolute beauties in there!

over 1 year ago

Mark Henry

Mark Henry, CEO at Acctrust

I agree with you on this. These terms must be avoided and a positive approach is all we need in order to survive. Great info! Thanks!

over 1 year ago

Dave Knight

Dave Knight, Chairman at Igence Software Ltd

Completely agree and...

I have some thoughts around this. If we use our best-in-class approach to leverage our bespoke capability then we may be able to move the needle north of the average. We might even get best-of-breed. If we did that across the piece then we would have no difficulty onboarding new contributors. I’ll action a slide deck to give us a bonus line of sight on the delta changes we need to make so the idea doesn't descend into the weeds.


over 1 year ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

@Dave Name your price.

over 1 year ago


Iain Robertson, Chief cook and bottle washer at Self

In my consultancy days, we had a three by three matrix. We even piloted a six by six. In each box was a word or phrase like "At this moment in time", "enhancing value", "paradigm shift ", "landscape", "metrics", "stakeholder involvement", and so-on. I'm sure you can think of many more.

We rolled dice to provide a row/column coordinate, and after several rolls, usually had a fine-sounding but utterly bollocks phrase for inclusion in the Management Summary, better known as the "Janet and John" page. "At this moment in time we need a paradigm shift in the definition and extraction of the metrics of our management system to enable a more accurate measurement of stakeholder involvement".

over 1 year ago


Iain Robertson, Chief cook and bottle washer at Self

To be serious, if communication is the process of transferring information from my mind to yours in such a way as to ensure what you understand is what I meant, then Sir Ernest Gowers should be a God among us, with "The Complete Plain Words" as our bible.

over 1 year ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

Some good book suggestions, Iain and Huw. Thanks

over 1 year ago


Mark Gray, Digital Manager at Madison

Just to add if anyone ever wants to "Reach Out" to me they can do one :)

over 1 year ago

Nigel Saxon

Nigel Saxon, Senior Digital Engagement Manager at LV=Enterprise

I heard the phrase " we don't need to boil the ocean" only this week. No idea what it means...

over 1 year ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.