February 5, 2021 kirstycooke

7 nonsense words you should just replace with other words

Don’t be fooled by business people filling the air with their nonsense words and jargon. There is always an alternative… including starting again.

I mean, of course, obviously, very few words are ALWAYS the wrong choice. It’s all about ‘context’, and ‘aims’, and ‘target audience’ and all that good stuff; stuff that, as a freelance editor, I definitely promote. Far be it from me to tell EVERYONE that they should NEVER use a certain word. But… here are my top seven words that I do think should just be parked, please.

DISCLAIMER ONE: There may exist a slight marketing angle in the selection of words I’ve chosen. Sorry if I alienate you non-marketing peeps.

1. Leverage (verb)

It tops so many jargon polls; it’s a parody of itself; it’s a noun not a verb. Let’s not. Try “use”, or just completely start again.

2. Passion (noun)

I used to love this one, so this entry proves that I am a fickle trickster not to be trusted. Today, it’s used too much and to mean too many things, so deploy it at your peril. (Alternative: I like it, I love it.)

3. Holistic (adjective/non-word)

Holistic properly refers to a theory developed by Jan Smuts, who argued that, through creative evolution, nature tended to form wholes greater than the sum of the parts. If this is not what you mean by holistic, you would probably be wise to avoid it.” (The Economist) Consider if you can just explain the various ways something works/helps.

4. Disrupt (verb)

Did you? I don’t think you did. Try: change.

nonsense words

Did ye, aye?

5. Ping (verb)

I think you mean you will SEND me an email, you unbearable bore.

6. Synergy (noun)

Sweet of business people with not enough on their plates to come up with a fancy way of saying almost nothing. No need; no alternative to proffer.

7. Deliverable (noun of doom)

Nothing fills me with more dread than coming face to face with a list of ‘deliverables’. Whether or not this says more about my attitude to work than to language is for you and my employers to decide. Do you mean tasks? Things to do? If you mean work for a client, try being specific!

See also: ‘Action’ as a verb. See also also: Actionable Deliverables, the worst of all the worst nonsense words. 

Honourable mentions

And some nonsense words that I can’t throw into Room 101 because they sometimes mean very sensible things: drive (cars only please), conversation, tangible and ‘learnings’ (used horribly as a noun).

DISCLAIMER TWO: Don’t be surprised if you hear me sometimes using any or all of these. I don’t play by the rules, sorry.

What heinous terms have I missed?