Tracking the business world’s most overused jargon

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To the continued dismay of many of those dealing with it, jargon is still an inescapable part of the business world. Yet this corporate-speak can leave even the most experienced businesspeople confused and bewildered.

A new study by professional services firm Grant Thornton has highlighted some of the business world’s most overused jargon, showing which terms are on the rise and which ones are, thankfully, falling out of favour. The findings make for fascinating reading.

Creating an index of business jargon

The company has used its research to create a Jargon Index, which assesses trending terms and ranks each piece of jargon by its popularity. The index was created by analysing 124 jargon words used on the websites of Fortune 500 companies, in the press and on social media. The results were reviewed to filter out spam and irrelevant mentions.

“Jargon is pervasive and persistent, plaguing our industry with buzzwords lacking substance,” said Srikant Sastry from Grant Thornton’s Advisory Services. “Anyone who works in business can relate to the overuse of corporate jargon, and frankly professional services providers are some of the main culprits.”

By creating the index, the company hopes to help others avoid the most overused corporate-speak.

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The jargon companies love to use

If you’ve ever struggled through a jargon-filled meeting, the most popular terms will probably already be familiar, with ‘best in class’ being the most commonly used phrase in the jargon world. The research found that this phrase was used 71,729 times, followed by ‘value add’, which had 56,657 uses.

Another popular phrase was ‘game changer’ (48,862 uses), followed by two terms that each had a relatively modest 26,863 mentions – ‘action plan’ and ‘on the same page’. “Just what size piece of paper are these people on?”, asked Grant Thornton.

The jargon businesses try to avoid

Despite the prevalence of the terms above, the index suggests that some corporate jargon is slipping out of favour. Trite phrases, such as ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’, ‘give 110 percent’ and ‘put a pin in it’ all appeared in the bottom five, with the fewest mentions going to ‘run it up the flagpole’ and ‘sharpen the pencil’.

Mapping the changing language of business

With an emphasis on cutting through the clutter, the Jargon Index reaffirms the importance of keeping your business writing clear and simple – whoever you’re writing for. While jargon words can quickly fade and become dated, straightforward business communication will never go out of fashion. So if you manage to avoid the terms above in your business writing, congratulations! You’re already best in class.

Ready to put a pin in your own company’s use of jargon? Our editing services can help you ditch the business speak and ensure that you and your readers are (ahem!) singing from the same hymn sheet.