Business-speak: It's Out of Control!

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Last week The Harvard Business Review’s Dan Pallotta wrote a blog about the confused state of business vernacular. Simply put, Pallotta “doesn’t understand what anyone is saying anymore.”

I have a different bone to pick regarding today’s business language too. Although I’ve been guilty of using many of these words or expressions on many occasions—particularly when I worked at my last company, which not only loved but often invented this jargon-oriented corporate speak—I’d like to propose that we return to saying what we mean rather than a) hijacking nouns to serve as verbs; b) re-jiggering words to mean something new and c) stealing words from one industry to use in another.

What follows is my pet-peeve list of words and expressions with working definitions (and the translation to what we really mean).

Leverage: Use, as in let’s use our time to talk about this idea. Not: Let’s leverage today’s reserved timeslot to whiteboard this concept.

Bandwidth: In other words, do you have time for this?

Throw jello at the wall and see if it sticks: How about, let’s test this idea.

Deep dive: Go into detail. See drill down.

Drill down: Go into detail. See deep dive.

Low-hanging fruit: Easy slam dunk. Ooops, I mean not that difficult. Or one word: Easy.

Short putt: Similar to low-hanging fruit. Obvious (and easy) slam dunk.

Pick a lane: Decide. This one, in particular, drives me nuts. (pun intended)

Throw under the bus: Ah, that lovely practice of sacrificing someone (usually a colleague you don’t like or respect). In other words, blaming someone else for the error, mistake or screw-up. (Secondary use: Siblings trying to explain a broken window, missing TV remote, etc.)

What’s on your plate: What do you have to do today? Are you busy? See bandwidth.

Interface (as in talk to):Really? Enough said.

Best practices: This one actually has some use, as it can refer to the standards you set, the quality you’re striving for, the way it’s always done and so on. So far I haven’t found a simpler, better phrase other than something like accepted process.

Look and feel: How about getting to the point, as in what does that website look like? What’s that restaurant’s atmosphere? You get my drift.

Value add: Is it worth it?

Let’s dialogue. Really? Can’t we just talk?

Whiteboard (as a verb). Sketch out. Imagine. Dream. Sorry, I happen to like active verbs, not made up verbs.

Hard stop. The end.

Want to read more? Check out this Forbes Glossary.

Barbara Call is director of content at Greenough. Follow her on twitter @barbaracall1.