The Blacklist of "Biz-Speak"

We all employ biz-speak but what are the biggest offenders that should be used sparingly?

Writing emails to business contacts can not only be a bit intimidating, it can also be repetitive. These two factors combined can lead to spitting out the same cliché expressions and “biz-speak” over and over again. Now the truth is that there’s no real harm in employing the same words that everybody else uses in business, especially since you’re writing to different people; but at the same time, “biz-speak” is somewhat questionable when it comes to creating a professional and authentic impression, and getting the response you want. Most importantly - and I fell victim to this very recently for correspondence that I believed to be crucial – using vocabulary or catch phrases that you don’t fully understand but you use them anyway in order to impress, is completely transparent. When I reread my email – after I pressed send of course – I felt like an idiot, still do actually.

We all employ biz-speak but what are the biggest offenders that should be used sparingly?

Rephraser’s Top 10 Words & Phrases That Make Us Cringe

Synergy – Sounds big but doesn’t say very much. Try defining the set of outputs that may result from the potential collaboration between your company and that of the reader.

Mission critical - This translates to something super important. My suggestion is to write just that – embellishing is simply cliché.

Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks – So you’re hoping something will work out? You’d sound more professional if you justified a direction with data or even an instinct.

Let’s take this offline – A great and easy example of avoidable “biz-speak”. It’s really just as easy to write “please call me” or “can we schedule a meeting” and you appear so much more genuine.

Optimize – I use this word way too often when I write about “optimizing your correspondence”. In essence, it’s a vague term that sounds important but ends up standing in for more specific productivity aims. I need to take my own advice.

Actionable – Unless an item is legally actionable, it’s simply incorrect to use this word, specifically in the context of “actionable items”; outline the tasks that need to be implemented.

Incentivize – This word might make sense in many contexts, but it is also overused in today’s business world; it’s ambiguous and boring.

Paradigm shift – A paradigm shift suggests a massive change in perspective and is a buzzword that is too big for most day-to-day business usage.

Seamless integration – In today’s Uberized economy, this catchphrase has become truly tired. Again here, I’m a culprit. Like Mailfixer, your business content may require the slogan, but find a better way to describe your service in your emails.

Pursuant to – This expression sounds fancy but actually it derives from legal jargon that is meaningless in regular business correspondence. Just say “as requested” or “further to our previous correspondence” – if you do want to sound fancy.

Consider your choice of vocabulary when writing your next email to make sure that you’re representing yourself and your company as unique and thoughtful, and lose the “biz-speak” robot talk. Using one of my favorite cliché’s – I’ve given myself “food for thought”.

By Ronit Zimmer, first published on August 1, 2016 on