You might “circle back” in meetings, “hit the ground running” on big projects and work “synergistically” with co-workers. The way you communicate and the words you use are important. If your vocabulary is full of buzzwords and jargon, you might be annoying your employees.
“We want to create meaning at work, and by using unique words for basic phrases, we can begin to feel like our work and what we are doing is somehow more important,” said Beverly Friedmann, content manager at ReviewingThis. “Then, there’s simply the culture and trickle-down factor, where one person starts using a word and it simply picks up amongst everyone else.”
While buzzwords make sense in some scenarios, some buzzwords can be confusing, overused and ultimately troublesome.
“I think buzzwords can be irritating to people because it sounds like you are ‘playing the corporate game’ rather than actually getting things done,” said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation. “It sounds, at times, like form over substance. Instead, provide substance.”
Summit Hosting surveyed 1,000 Americans about the most overused office buzzwords and jargon. Here are some words you might want to avoid and others that are more acceptable, according to the survey.
Jargon to avoid
The worst buzzwords to use in the workplace are “LOL” (said aloud), “ping me” and “growth hacking,” according to the survey. Not only should you avoid saying these words, but you also shouldn’t use them in written communication. Forty-seven percent of Americans believe it’s better to hear office jargon than to read it.
While Summit Hosting didn’t ask respondents why jargon rubbed them the wrong way, the study’s authors believe it’s because these words are too newly made up.
“By overusing them, you could be making your co-workers feel like they need a special ‘office dictionary’ just to make it through an everyday conversation,” said the Summit Hosting creative team.
“It’s best to try to avoid confusing buzzwords and business jargon,” said Friedmann. “Rather, express your point with intent and professionalism, and try to resist what’s being thrown around the office.”
Monitoring your use of ‘acceptable’ buzzwords
Some buzzwords are acceptable, industry-appropriate and sometimes the most effective way to get a point across.
“The use of buzzwords is acceptable to the extent that it is context-appropriate and the person you are communicating with can easily understand what you are saying,” said Chris Chancey, founder of Amplio Recruiting.
Summit Hosting’s survey found more than 25 “somewhat acceptable buzzwords” and phrases, such as “piggyback,” “organic,” “take this offline” and “EOD.”
It’s always best to use buzzwords sparingly. However, there are some words or phrases you can usually use without being annoying. The survey found 25 buzzwords that are the most acceptable, including “scalable,” “bells and whistles,” “a lot on my plate,” “touch base,” “all hands on deck,” “hold down the fort,” “bandwidth” and “ASAP.”
For the full list of words and phrases that are unacceptable, somewhat acceptable and most acceptable, read the survey on Summit Hosting’s website.
Smart communication practices
Even though there are some acceptable buzzwords, if you say the same word too much, it can become annoying to the people around you. It’s best to be straightforward, clear and concise when you are communicating in the office.
“Buzzwords are here to stay, but it is possible to minimize their use at a personal level,” Chancey said. “Instead of reaching out for a cliche, just say what you mean. Stating exactly what you mean makes you a better communicator.”
Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.