My colleague Sheila Gregory posted on Facebook that it starts to bug her when a word becomes trendy and is used everywhere. Right now, that word is “myriad.”
A few of us chimed in with other overused or jargony words we find annoying. But jargon isn’t just annoying. Jargon is harder to understand, and makes it more likely busy, impatient people (aren’t we all?) will stop paying attention to your words.
The Canadian Press spells it out in its Caps and Spelling book: “When there is a choice of words, prefer the short to the long, the familiar to the unfamiliar.”
Sparked by Sheila’s post, here’s my list of most-hated jargon, with suggested alternatives:
A marketing specialist I follow is always talking about “actionable steps.” There’s nothing wrong with saying “useful steps” or “steps you can take.”
How awkward and formal is “We were appreciative of…”? Just say, “We appreciated.” A simple “Thank you” also works well.
It’s needlessly long and formal, and people think it sounds smarter. Just use “about.”
- Best of breed
Tech companies love this, but it makes most people think of a dog show. Plus, if you wouldn’t say the opposite (“worst of breed”?), this is meaningless.
Again, people seem to think this sounds smarter, and certainly it’s more formal. Instead, say “begin” or “start.”
Tech companies prefer to “deploy,” but there’s nothing wrong with “use.” If referring to something new, you can also replace it with “introduce.”
I see this a lot but I have never heard someone say it. Real humans say “avoid.”
As a noun, better to say “effect.” (“Your jargon has an effect on me.”) As a verb, say “affect” or be more specific. (Your jargon affects/hurts/annoys me.)
As with “deploy,” a friendlier term is “use” or “introduce,” if referring to something new.
Shudder. The intent seems to be including an element of reward, but it’s a cold, made-up, verbified word. Use “motivate” or “encourage.”
Another tech darling. Try the all-purpose “use.”
Loved by the law and insurance industries, but not a word that crops up in casual conversation with your family. Try “ease,” “deal with,” “avoid” or “guard against.”
It means “countless” or “many,” and those are better ways to say it. You should also know that saying “myriad choices” and “a myriad of choices” are both technically correct, but many people will think the latter use is wrong.
A fancy way of saying “overall.”
The jargony way of suggesting a “change of plan” or “change of direction.”
Human Resources departments love this one. Does “skill” really need “set” added to it? No.
Most often used to indicate a willingness to be “clear” or “open,” which are both better options.
- Utilize, utilization
“Use” and “usage” do a fine job of conveying what you mean.
The Nielsen Norman Group puts it well: “Weed out vague jargon and complicated words and replace them with common terms. Your readers will like you more.”
Is your most-hated jargon missing from my list? What is it? Please share in the comments.