Buzzwords can quash, not help, your message

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

Effective communication is both the goal and the hallmark of an effective manager, but in our struggle to communicate, the use of buzzwords can backfire.

Staffing firm Accountemps commissioned a survey with senior executives asking them to name the most annoying or overused phrases in the workplace. Natasha Melgar, branch manager for Accountemps in Washington, D.C., told FederalNewsRadio knowing, and avoiding, those phrases can work to your advantage.

“Particularly in formal communication,” she says, “because you want to be effective. I think if we’re direct and using correct language, the message gets sent across effectively.”


When a word or phrase becomes over-used, says Melgar, it loses its impact and becomes meaningless over time.

According to Accountemps, overused words and phrases in the survey include:

  • Leverage: As in, “We intend to leverage our investment in IT infrastructure across multiple business units to drive profits.”
  • Reach out: As in, “Remember to reach out to customers impacted by the change.”
  • It is what it is: As in, “The server is down today, and clients are irate. It is what it is.”
  • Viral: As in, “Our video has gone viral.”
  • Game changer: As in, “Transitioning from products to solutions was a game changer for our company.”
  • Disconnect: As in, “There is a disconnect between what the consumer wants and what the product provides.”

Also noted in the survey are words about the economy. These include “do more with less, restructuring, downsizing, gloom and doom, pay freeze” and bailout.

While it may be impossible to avoid using these terms, Melgar suggests we use them sparingly. She told the FederalDrive you can generally tell you’re approaching over-use when your audience loses energy or a client seems to lose enthusiasm.

Finally, the classics never die. Accountemps conducted a similar survey in 2004. A few “Hall-of-Fame” buzzwords were cited in both surveys:

  • At the end of the day
  • Synergy
  • Solution
  • Think outside the box
  • On the same page
  • Customer-centric

On the Web:

Accountemps – What’s the Buzz? Survey Reveals Most Overused Workplace Terms (press release)

WordSpy – buzzword bingo

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