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Business Buzzwords

Business Buzzwords

As a team, the Speechy writers have a zero tolerate (to the vast majority) of zeitgeist words. This is because, 90 per cent of the time, they’re meaningless fluff, used to give the impression of innovation to make up for the fact the speech content lacks any genuinely new ideas. Here's the words you need to avoid.

(*Of course, if you’re looking for more than ‘advice’, check out all the different ways the Speechy team can help you write & deliver a great speech. Or check out our new AI-powered team member, SpeechyAI.)

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Business jargon and phraseology is often tokenistic and lazy. ‘Fuzzword’ sums it up nicely.

In a recent survey by online learning platform Preply, one in five respondents admitted to disliking corporate speak. Despite that, three-quarters of people said that they use corporate buzzwords to seem more professional with 66% of women and 76% of men saying they do. Ironically, this survey, also proved three quarters of people hate corporate speak.

These days, whether it be in a keynote speech or an employee meeting, corporate cliches give the impression to savvy listeners, that you’re using them to impress or deceive your recipients. Today, ‘let’s touch base on this’ is an expression that one in four employees consider the most annoying office buzzword around. Any audience wants specifics, not insincerity and hollow words. In fact, it’s been shown that too much corporate jargon in a job ad can put up to 20 per cent of people off applying.

When words have such a power to turn people off, why resort to them in the first place?

Speechy has worked with a variety of business clients, and the first stage of getting the best from them is decoding their corporate-styled-communication and over-reliance on business-speak.

As workforces and audiences become more diverse, speakers need to be more mindful that a percentage of their audience may not have English as their first language. Make your message easily understandable for everyone!

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Business Buzzwords to Avoid

Purpose driven

For those who are confused (as were we) the definition of purpose driven is ‘why you do something or why something exists.’ Excuse us if we come across as forthright here, but isn’t the purpose of your business to make money and create a good reputation?

Many businesses are using this term to give the impression that they are working for a higher, noble purpose. Some of them are. But the vast majority of businesses are motivated, mainly, by profit. And that’s fine. Don’t apologise for it.

Move the needle

This means to have an effect so that someone notices a change has been made. Yawn.

This sort of phrase may impress a new intern but there will be eye-rolling from anyone who understands business.

During these X times

Unprecedented. Trying. Difficult. No matter what adjective you go for here, you need to drop this ubiquitous way of describing something we’re all going through.

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Landslide (or equivalent)

Whilst this buzzword is commonly used in the world of politics, it can also be a way of describing the success of your business/venture. See: we’ve had a landslide victory. To put it in perspective, Donald Trump tweeted in 2016 that he won the electoral collage in a landslide, despite only receiving less than 50% of the votes.

An annoying phrase that exaggerates the truth and doesn’t give the statistics.

Circle back

It really is time for this circle to close. Your employee has finally plucked up the courage to ask a question at the end of your speech, for them to be shut down with the dreaded ‘we’ll circle back to that’ comment. You two both know that this is a classic way of avoiding the question and that is certainly not being re-visited.[image]

Granular approach:

You may have used this phrase after Boris Johnson promised us a more ‘granular approach’ to the painful Coronavirus system. As if staying 2m apart, washing our groceries and bulk-buying masks wasn’t confusing enough.

‘Granular’ thinking is the opposite of ‘blue sky’ or ‘out of the box’ thinking, and will quickly become as dated as these terms.

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Asking your employee if they have the ‘bandwidth’ to take on another task at work is really just an attempt of glorifying the question, ‘do you have the time?’. We believe that cutting to the chase and being upfront with your employee will go down a lot better.

Giving 110%:

You know it, we know it, everyone knows it. Giving 110% is literally not possible. The likelihood of your employees going above and beyond for you will rise massively if you stop asking for impossibilities.

Thought leader

Okay, a lot of clients want to be considered a ‘thought leader’ but, as speechwriters, our concern is that any attempts to become one (or, God forbid) label yourself or your business as one, gives the impression of self-promotion rather than genuine innovation.

The term has become the corporate equivalent of an Instagram influencer. LinkedIn posts that promote the idea of positioning yourself as a ‘thought-leader’ are liked by hundreds of people who, us cynical folk at Speechy doubt are pushing many boundaries.


We have no doubt you’ll throw this word around when you want to bring your employees together to work collaboratively. Teamwork makes the dreamwork! However, your employees really know that you are using ‘synergy’ in your speech as an annoying substitute for saying ‘I don’t want to tackle this project on my own’.

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Cut the Corporate Crap

Our concern is that too many buzzwords comes across as a clumsy attempt at staying relevant and interesting. Our aim is always to ensure your speech is genuinely relevant and interesting.

The harsh reality of buzzwords is that they’re taking away from your credibility, and your staff are one ‘piggyback’ away from losing faith. Especially if you’re speaking in front of a large crowd, corporate speak will result in many confused expressions and disassociation as many people won’t know what you’re talking about. The first rule of writing a great speech is to know your audience and be inclusive.

So, how do you beat the temptation to throw a corporate cliché into your next speech? Our advice is quite simple: just speak the way that people talk. Integrate your facts and ideas naturally instead of pointlessly paraphrasing and aggravating your audience

The Speechwriting Experts

The Speechy team are TV-trained scriptwriters/comedians by trade & we’ve helped 1,000s of speakers around the world deliver their dream speech.

Our advice has been quoted everywhere from The New York Times to Grazia and from Forbes to The Observer. Our founder has also featured on the BBC Sounds’ Best Men podcast with Jason Manford and written ‘The Modern Couple’s Guide to Wedding Speeches’, published by Little, Brown.

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