Cleaning up your cliches and catchphrases in 2018

By the end of each work year there are always a few catchphrases and clichés that we are all more than happy to say 'goodbye' to when the calendar starts anew. We've compiled some of the worst offenders, and added a few...interesting...suggestions for the new year. Ferking forthward we shall all be prepared for a successful, anatiferous 2018.

Throw these out: 26 Annoying Business Clichés You Should Stop Using Immediately

Source: Jaquelyne Smith, Business Insider

We’re all guilty of using the occasional buzzword or cliché at work. But it turns out that abusing these words and phrases can seriously hurt your credibility.

They’re annoying and confusing — and often meaningless — and when you’re communicating with busy people in the business world, they don’t have the time to decipher your message.

“You need to avoid business jargon and be clear in order to get your point across and be heard,” says Darlene Price, president of Well Said, Inc., and author of “Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.”

She says most clichés were once a fresh, creative way of expressing a popular thought or common idea. “But because of long, excessive use, each phrase has lost its originality, impact, and even meaning.” 

Here are 26 overused business clichés, and how to replace them with what you really mean:

Drink the Kool-Aid.

Do you really want to refer to the tragic 1978 Jonestown suicides?” Price asks. If not, say what you really mean. Either, “I agree and give you my full support,” or conversely, “We need more critical examination before making this decision.”

Break down the silos.

"What’s a silo?” asked the employee to her boss, who used this phrase to describe how one department should collaborate with another. "Instead say, ‘share information,’ or ‘work together,’ or ‘cooperate with each other',” says Price.

Don’t throw him/her under the bus.

This murderous image may be replaced with, ‘Don’t name and blame another for a mistake,'” says Price.

It is what it is.

Not only can this phrase sound flippant and resigned, but what is “it?” Instead say, “We can’t change the fact that…; therefore, I recommend…”

Do more with less.

“This trite cliché is vague,” says Price. “Do more of what with less of what? At it’s worst, this stale phrase is a corporate euphemism for, ‘Do more work with less pay,’ or ‘Work smarter,’ as though the listener is not already doing so.” Instead, be specific, make your argument, and say exactly what you mean. 

Other phrases that made the cut include: tee it up, take it offline, take it to the nest level, it's a paradigm shift, low-hanging fruit, let's circle back, run it up the flagpole, par for the course, synergize and more. Read the full 26 phrases here.

Avoid at all costs: The Most Annoying, Pretentious And Useless Business Jargon

Source: Community Contributor, [Gallery]

46 phrases from the Forbes community that come with a few quipping remarks from contributors who have seemingly had it with these jargon jugganauts. 

Low hanging fruit.

You'd rather not have to climb the tree to get your apple, so curb your hunger by picking the low-hanging ones. Same goes for business tasks and opportunities. Except that non one knows which tasks and opportunities you're talking about, or whether ticking them off, easy as that sounds, is a good idea in the first place.


This word has infiltrated nearly every cube and conference room in the country. Blame Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People (No. 6 is Synergize). Of this habit, Covey writes, "To put it simply, synergy means two heads are better than one." The same advice was preached several decades earlier on the hit show Seasame Street. Big Bird called it 'coorperation'.

Drill Down.

A phrase often wielded by superiors wanting a subject examined more closely. Drill down to what? asks Shut Up and Say Something author Karen Friedman..."The oil?"


The granddaddy of nouns converted to verbs. 'Leverage' is mercilessly use to describe how a situation or environment can be manipulated or controlled. Leverage should remain a noun, as in 'to apply leverage' not a psuedo-verb, as in 'we are leveraging our assets'.


A scalable business or activity refers to one that requires little additional effort or cost for each unit of output it generates. Example: Making software is a scalable business (building it requires lots of effort up front; distributing a million copies over the Web is relatively painless). Venture capitalists crave scalable businesses. They crave them so much that the term has now become more annoying the the media's obsession with Lindsay Lohan.

Read all 46 jargon terms from Forbes here.

Freshen Up: 13 ‘ye olde’ phrases that would be far better in the workplace

Source: Community Contributor, 

The piece around workplace jargon is moving forward, with the team hitting the ground running. We’ve got our ducks in a row, have drilled down into our learnings — let’s run it up the flagpole and see the result.

Clearly we need to enter 2018 with a fresh set of expressions for the workplace.

Now, I could suggest some spanking-new ones, but lexical novelty comes with risks — besides, we’re all a bit weary of innovation in the workplace. 

Read more: Catchphrase to cliché: how corporate-speak became common in our everyday lives

So in the spirit of recycling, I suggest we recruit golden oldies to inject energy into modern managerial jargon, some linguistic gems from the past that deserve a second go. 

Reaching out with saucy oars

Linguistic bugbears are always in the eye of beholder, but singing from the same hymn sheetseems to get up most noses. Old nautical jargon might be just what’s needed here, specifically — in the quill or jumping in quill. These are expressions that also meant “working in harmony”. 

The quill here isn’t a feather, but an early version of coil (of rope). If you’re all jumping in quill, you’re nicely coiled up in concentric rings, so no need for synergizing either.

The world of business has also given us out over one’s skis. The message is “don’t get too far ahead of yourself”. Skiers I gather are irritated by this one because they feel the imagery is wrong, and those of us who aren’t into winter sports are simply confused.

If the idea is acting prematurely or recklessly, can I suggest we resurrect another couple of nautical expressions? Ships or boats that were rashly venturing were once said to be with saucy rigging or with saucy oars — titillating images for a change: 

“They might have been sailing with saucy rigging with that restructure.” 

Being loaded for bears when you hit the floor running

Something that makes regular appearances in our workplace memos is getting your ducks in a row, in other words, being organised. Its origin isn’t clear — ceramic flying ducks on a wall, rows of mechanical ducks at the fairground, balls (sitting ducks) lined up to be potted on the pool table.

It could also relate to real live ducks close together and about to be shot, or even the mother duck with her brood. All were possible inspirations. 

I’m very tempted to suggest the incorporation of another duck expression here, the 17th century curiosity anatiferous “producing ducks” (from Latin anas (anati) “duck” + ferus“making”)?

But I suspect we need a stronger image for the modern corporate world. So how about being loaded for bear(s), a North American expression from the 19th century that also meant being fully prepared? Here you have to imagine hunters geared up for an bear encounter. 

If you’re loaded for bears before the next meeting, you’re ready for anything. 

Ideating or bethinking outside the box

The message from many management gurus is that plain and simple English words are what we need to achieve clear communication, and in the interests of de-jargonising modern corporate-speak we could even revive a few. 

Sibsomeness, somredness, onehead, onehood all once referred to different aspects of unity of spirit, mind and action. While they lack the profitable association of corporate synergy, that meaning can be supplied: 

“The team work resulted in a sibsomeness that was very productive.”

We like to investigate matters meticulously but are thoroughly sick of drilling down or peeling the onion. Now, we could bring back bolting the flour with its different image of a bolting-cloth or sieve. But why not Old English through-seek, with more or less the same meaning and a one thousand year-old pedigree.

The English word furtherhead was overwhelmed by French-inspired priorities and prioritize, and never took off. But as something that can be both noun and verb, it’s a handy replacement for these two foreign-derived expressions: 

“The department has failed to futherhead safety within the industry.”

Ferking forthward

Let me finish with going forward, a kind of sentence tag that I equate with the teaspoonful of sugar following the tablespoonful of cod liver oil

“This is our strategy going forward.” 

There’s a fine Old English expression that could replace this overworked corporate morale booster — ferking forthward meaning moving forward, or helping something on its way. 

In the modern version of the verb, prepositions are flexible. And whether it’s ferking out, up, off or forward, throughout its long and complicated life this verb has always had direction, action and bucket loads of purpose at its core:

“This ongoing restructuring of the business is a necessary step in creating a leaner organisation ferking up.” 

There’s a little extra something here, too. It comes from the subtle vowel change that during the 16th century transformed ancient ferk to the modern-day F-word (undoubtedly this transition was assisted by other sources — successful expressions are usually mongrels). 

Now, I know it’s easy to tilt at the jargon of others. But when expressions start doing something to people’s neck hairs, it’s time to let them go.