Language is always changing. Often it’s for the better.
But business culture has a tendency to overuse expressions, so much so that they soon turn into meaningless cliches.
In 2022, if you want to improve your writing and communication skills, try to avoid using them.
Below are ten of the worst offenders (although I’m sure you can think of many others):
Deep dive – unless you are Tom Daley, work for Speedo or belong to a sub-aqua club, it’s best to avoid this expression when describing your reports or white papers. The description is now so overused that readers immediately assume the content is not deep at all, but shallow and superficial. Why not use the term ‘analysis’ instead and allow readers to judge its impact and usefulness?
Game changer – can you keep up with how many times ‘the game’ has been changed, but strangely everything remains exactly the same? Game changer is a classic example of over-statement which immediately draws scepticism, suspicion and even ridicule.
Onboarding – This is simply a more glamorous alternative to the word ‘induction’. It suggests that your new role offers unique levels of excitement and exhilaration in a fast-paced environment, coupled with an unparalleled welcome and sense of belonging. The reality is rarely like this and can leave those onboarded feeling flat and underwhelmed.
Low-hanging fruit – I was always told to avoid fruits that are easy to reach as they are overripe and often rotten. Reward is found hanging from the higher branches. Regardless of your fruit picking technique, this overladen metaphor is so heavily used, it’s now rendered meaningless.
Impacting – As a noun (‘the impact of…’) it’s fine. It’s the verb I have a problem with. I know ‘impacting’ suggests more, dare I say it, impact but it jars with me. What sounds better: “Your speech made quite an impact on the audience” or “Your speech impacted the audience significantly,” which obviously sounds silly. I rest my case.
Also, impacting may sound great but it does offer clarity to the reader? For instance, writing “Covid has significantly impacted crime rates” does tell you whether crime has done up, down or sideways.
And while we are at it, let’s stop using impact’s irritating cousin, impactful, as well.
Lived experience – This is a classic case of using two words when one will suffice. Experience is always ‘lived’. There’s no need to state it. And let’s stop pretending that using ‘lived’ suggests that your experience is any more meaningful than others.
Upskilling – I know that this sounds a lot more exciting than the more mundane word ‘training’, but it means the same. It’s adding a glamorous veneer which soon loses its shine. ‘Training’ may be a more run-of-the-mill word but we all know what it means.
Journey – OK, we all make journeys. To work. To Sainsburys. To school to pick up the kids … wherever. However, to suggest that every individual (and organisation) is now on a journey is a little ridiculous. We go on journeys. Few of us are part of journeys. The word suggests an exceptional and unique experience that doesn’t live up to reality. So, no more personal or business journeys. Please.
Iconic – To use this word to describe ancient Greek statues, or buttons on digital apps is fair enough. Let’s limit things after that. Nowadays, everything is described as iconic. So often writers can’t think of any other way to convince readers so they slip the adjective in, in the vain hope that it will engender a sense of reverence, respect and general admiration towards the object or experience they are describing. It doesn’t, so stop using it.
And while I think of it, the word eclectic falls into the same category. Best give it a miss.
Passion – Come on, do you really believe individuals, organisations and businesses who constantly tell us their only motivation is their passion for their work or product? It happens so often and is so overused no one believes you. Let’s confine passion to our private lives. And if you really are that passionate about what you do, spend some time, care and effort explaining why.