5-second summary
  • Research shows that using vague vocabulary can undermine trust in your message.
  • Rather than focusing on phrasing, strive to make a clear and original point, says author Joel Schwartzberg.
  • Many examples of corporate jargon are overused and imprecise. Substituting more specific alternatives will make a more compelling case to your audience.

People aren’t shy about criticizing corporate jargon – but even those naysayers are probably uttering a few of these business buzzwords every once in a while. 

It’s easy to do. They’ve become a sort of shorthand in the modern working world. Heck, who doesn’t let an, “I’ll ping you!” or “Let’s circle back…” slip once in a while? But in most cases, there’s a clearer way to say things (that’ll inspire fewer eye rolls and, more importantly, less head-scratching).

If you’re looking for some easy swaps into your work vocabulary, use our easy list of overused jargon. And to ensure we’re aligned on the most mission-critical net new terms to use at work, we’ve also ideated some alternatives you can seamlessly leverage by EOD. 😉

Focus on clear communication, not fresh lingo

Do you know your communication style at work? Take our quiz to find out

Before we get into the actual terms, a brief refresher on the point of communication: to get your point across.

“Ultimately, you don’t want your audience to take away your words,” says Joel Schwartzberg, author of Get to the Point! and The Language of Leadership. “You want them to take away your point.”

Sometimes jargon is a helpful device, but other times it’s a distraction. It’s all about being able to recognize not only the words you’re using but also why you’re using them. “Using corporate jargon,” says Schwartzberg, “even simply haughty words like ‘efficacy,’ ‘iterate,’ ‘synergy,’ and ‘robust,’ signal that the speaker is thinking of themselves and not the audience.” And that’s the crux, isn’t it? Whether or not you’re doing your best to communicate and help someone understand.

31 examples of corporate jargon (and what to say instead)

When is it okay to use corporate jargon?

1. 30,000-foot view

What it means: Consider the big picture of a situation or problem rather than getting hung up on the details. 
How it’s used: “Let’s take a 30,000-foot view on our customer acquisition strategy.” 
Try this instead: Overview

2. Alignment

What it means: A shared understanding of a goal or purpose and how to work toward it together. 
How it’s used: “I want to make sure we’re all in alignment on the project goals.” 
Try this instead: Agreement 

3. Bandwidth

What it means: How much time and energy a person has available for a task or responsibility.
How it’s used: “Do you have the bandwidth to take over this monthly report?”
Try this instead: Availability 

4. Circle back

What it means: Reconnect about a topic at a later time. 
How it’s used: “I’ll circle back on this next month.” 
Try this instead: Follow up 

5. Close the loop

What it means: Wrap up a topic or process with a firm conclusion.
How it’s used: “Can you reach out to the client to close the loop on that proposal?”
Try this instead: Finish

6. Deliverable

What it means: Something (either tangible or intangible) that’s produced as part of a project
How it’s used: “That’s a crucial deliverable for the upcoming product launch.” 
Try this instead: Outcome

7. Disrupt

What it means: Innovate or introduce something new.
How it’s used: “We’re poised to disrupt the healthcare technology market.”
Try this instead: Change

8. Double-click

What it means: Dig deeper into a topic or issue.
How it’s used: “I want to double-click on your feedback about engagement surveys.” 
Try this instead: Explore

9. Download

What it means: Give information to other team members.
How it’s used: “We’re here to download last week’s investor call.” 
Try this instead: Share

10. EOD

What it means: End of day (which can mean something different to everyone, especially on distributed teams).
How it’s used: “Can you get this back by EOD?”
Try this instead: List the exact date and time (for example, “by 4pm PST on Monday”)

11. Full disclosure

What it means: Complete admission of information related to a situation or decision.
How it’s used: “Full disclosure: I know that candidate personally.” 
Try this instead: Nothing (simply state the fact without qualifying it)

12. Hard stop

What it means: Firm end time for a meeting or other commitment. 
How it’s used: “I have a hard stop at 3pm for another meeting.” 
Try this instead: End

13. Ideate

What it means: Generate new ideas, usually through brainstorming
How it’s used: “Let’s pull the team together and ideate ways to improve retention.” 
Try this instead: Brainstorm

14. Leverage

What it means: Use strategies, relationships, or resources to their maximum benefit.
How it’s used: “We should leverage the customer support team’s knowledge for this project.” 
Try this instead: Make the most of

15. Mind meld

What it means: Come together to share ideas and perspectives.
How it’s used: “Let’s have a quick mind meld before the client meeting tomorrow.” 
Try this instead: Discussion

16. Mission critical

What it means: Tasks, strategies, or other components that are essential for achieving a goal.
How it’s used: “The graphics are mission critical for getting this ebook launched on time.” 
Try this instead: Crucial

PSA: English idioms can be confusing for non-native speakers

Turns of phrase don’t always translate. So, when it comes to communicating with non-native English speakers (and non-American-English speakers, for that matter) try asking this simple question: How do you say this in your language? This tactic prevents a potential misunderstanding while also teaching you something new.

17. Move the needle 

What it means: Make significant progress.
How it’s used: “We’re looking for sales strategies that will move the needle on our revenue numbers.” 
Try this instead: Effective

18. Offline

What it means: Discuss something outside of the current meeting or conversation.
How it’s used: “We’ll chat about that offline.” 
Try this instead: Later

19. Out of pocket

What it means: To be unreachable.
How it’s used: “I’ll be out of pocket tomorrow afternoon for my daughter’s dance recital.” 
Try this instead: Unavailable

20. Piggyback

What it means: Take inspiration from an existing idea or initiative, rather than start from scratch
How it’s used: “To piggyback off of this customer’s feature request…”
Try this instead: Build

21. Ping

What it means: Send a brief message or notification to someone.
How it’s used: “I’ll ping Sean to check in.” 
Try this instead: Contact

22. Pivot

What it means: Strategically shift direction or focus in response to changes.
How it’s used: “We’re going to pivot our approach to product development.” 
Try this instead: Switch

23. Punt

What it means: Postpone a decision or task to a later time.
How it’s used: “Let’s punt that to next week’s meeting.” 
Try this instead: Delay

24. Put a pin in it

What it means: Temporarily set aside a topic or decision.
How it’s used: “We’ll put a pin in this until we can get more information.” 
Try this instead: Pause

25. Scale

What it means: Expand a team, product, service, or business.
How it’s used: “We need this process to scale along with our team.” 
Try this instead: Grow

26. Seamless

What it means: Process or experience that is smooth and efficient.
How it’s used: “Our checkout experience should be seamless.” 
Try this instead: Easy

27. Synergy

What it means: Combined effort that leads to better results than individual efforts.
How it’s used: “Bringing together our marketing and sales team will create synergy.” 
Try this instead: Teamwork

28. Table this

What it means: Postpone or set aside a topic or decision for a later date.
How it’s used: “Let’s table this for now.” 
Try this instead: Move on

29. Utilize

What it means: Make use of something
How it’s used: “How can we better utilize the team’s talents?” 
Try this instead: Use

30. Value add

What it means: Improvement that increases the worth of a product, service, or process
How it’s used: “This feature is a real value add for our customers.” 
Try this instead: Benefit

31. Wheelhouse

What it means: Area of expertise or skill 
How it’s used: “Excel formulas aren’t really in my wheelhouse.” 
Try this instead: Strength

Say what you mean (simply, please)

When it comes to communication, here’s your best rule of thumb: keep it simple. And remember that the language you choose can make or break that simplicity. 

As Charles Mingus, the famous jazz musician, once said: “Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.”

So save the euphemisms for just the right time. Otherwise, take the time to say what you mean in a relatable and understandable way.

Special thanks to Kat Boogaard for her contributions to this article.

31 corporate jargon phrases to avoid (and what to say instead)