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Reinforce your professionalism by nixing these empty phrases from your vocabulary

Posted by Deepshikha Shukla

February 16, 2022

Our choice of words in business communications not only affect teamwork and morale, but they also potentially affect every business outcome. Psychological research has shown our sentences can significantly influence our listeners’ choices and opinions. That means using the correct verbiage in business is vital for achieving success. 

Nonspecific filler expressions to avoid

Choosing nonspecific words and meaningless expressions in business communication can weaken the value of your message and cast doubt upon your expertise. Nevertheless, poor word choices and reckless phrasing can be blamed for many communication failures in the workplace. The repercussions range from disengagement and low productivity levels to financial losses.

Odds are your audience finds empty corporate buzzwords unoriginal and dull. Here are some examples of meaningless syntax that listeners would be grateful to have you eradicate from your business communication. 

1. New normal

After two years of working from home, the phrase “new normal" has become an outdated cliche. Experts believe that there will be no “normal” with the global pandemic, and that we all have to learn to be more agile in response. 

John E. Walker, founder and managing partner at PR agency Chirp, advises clients to stop using the phrase “new normal” altogether and embrace the concept of “next to normal” instead. “As the world and society evolve, so does business and we should consider the next pandemic phase to be the next normal,” Walker said.

2. State of the art, cutting-edge

These phrases are flabby and vague. If you can’t describe your products in real-world terms that truly mean something, you will not be able to convey how your product or service helps your customers. Use words such as latest, advanced, purpose-built or high-performance instead.

3. Strong culture

Companies often write about having a strong culture. However, the phrase doesn’t actually articulate what that culture represents and what makes it unique. “When I read that a company has a strong culture, I often wonder if it’s a culture where people are encouraged to grow and to work together, or if it’s a culture where one is expected to be on-call 24/7 and compete for advancement,” said Farone Advisors founder Deborah Farone.

4. Paradigm shift

The cliche “paradigm shift” is overused and trite. Instead, tell listeners what the shift is and why they should care.

5. Now more than ever

“Now more than ever” is trite and suggests ignorance of history. There have always been challenging times; the current pandemic is just the latest. Use “better” or “greater” than something else to provide context and meaning.

6. The leading …

Every company describes itself as leading something or other. If everyone is claiming to be the leader, then who really is? “Use that precious space to define who you are and why you matter,” said Welltok Chief Marketing Officer Erica Morgenstern. “That’s more important than trying to say you are a leader in a category or space with a bunch of qualifiers around it.”

7. Innovative solutions

All tech companies claim to develop “innovative solutions.” But it doesn’t communicate what makes them innovative. How is their innovation different or better than that of their competitors? It’s better to be specific and show success by providing customer examples. For instance, “We help businesses use artificial intelligence to decrease financial errors” is more powerful than “We offer businesses innovative financial solutions.” 

8. Putting people first

“Putting people first” is a tired phrase that has come to lose its meaning. It’s better to talk about the actual initiatives that will help the organization and your stakeholders.

A better way to say it

Here are some of the other top offenders among overused and passive-sounding business communication words and phrases, alongside classier examples of what to use instead. 

Instead of this: Say this:
This is exciting. Explain why it’s credible, effective or persuasive.
You can leverage. Replace leverage with use, capitalize on, take advantage of or harness.
Differentiate yourself. Stand out as a unique asset or be your own best advocate.
I want you to finish that report by tomorrow. Would you be able to finish that report by tomorrow?
Now that article looks better. The article looks even better. 
I think this is a bad idea. I don’t think this is such a good idea.
Please do not hesitate to contact me. Please call me/schedule a meeting if you have any questions.
I hope you’re well/I hope this email finds you well. I hope you’re having a great day/week.
Sorry for the late response. Thank you for your patience.
Game-changing. Transformational, evolutionary.
Be on the same page. Agree, support.
Take ownership Take responsibility.
 

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