Corporate jargon – brave enough to ban it?

It seems reactions to corporate jargon are rising.

Forbes lists 25 ridiculous phrases to stop saying at work, there’s a Wimbledon-style draw to vote for the worst jargon of all time and a helpful flow diagram is doing the rounds to check whether you’re a member of the Four Tops if you ‘reach out’ at work.

Is revolution in the air? Have communicators finally had enough, or is this just silly season stuff that sinks at the start of September?

I’ve blogged before about the courage communicators need to confront jargon. It can be tough to convince colleagues that simpler really is better and we can all be guilty of slip-ups. Also, every organisation and industry has abbreviations and acronyms that are unavoidable to include in our communications.

What’s encouraging, though, is how some organisations have taken steps to ban jargon outright. The best I’ve seen by far is by the Government Digital Service in the UK, which has an excellent writing and style guide for civil servants and a list of words to avoid. Here’s an example of one:

Deliver (pizzas, post and services are delivered – not abstract concepts like ‘improvements’ or ‘priorities’)

It seems to me that a formal style guide like this gives direction to communication teams and power to their elbow when they’re up against someone who’s brimming with buzzwords.

Does your organisation have a style guide with an emphasis on plain language – and has it helped stem the flow of ‘synergies’, ‘leverage’ and ‘sweat equity’? (That last one is my personal ‘favourite’ right now.) I’m interested to hear from anyone who’s been brave enough to introduce one and see the benefits.


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