It’s Time to Retire These Corporate Buzzwords and Phrases

Gerri Knilans
5 min readMay 3, 2024


“Let’s take this offline so we circle back to our synergistic partnership and go after the low-hanging fruit that will optimize our market penetration and enhance stakeholder engagement across all touchpoints.” If you found this sentence to be confusing (and cringeworthy), you aren’t alone. Excessive use of buzzwords and corporate jargon can elicit negative reactions, impede clarity, and damage critical business relationships.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of relying on the same corporate vocabulary. From “the new normal” to “ping me,” some phrases become so deeply embedded in our vernacular that they become the language of business. But using clichéd or overused language can make your messaging seem unoriginal, disingenuous, or even computer-generated.

10 Buzzwords and Phrases that Need to Go

Relying on overused business phrases can hinder our ability to effectively communicate our messages to our target audiences. To keep language fresh, clear, and authentic, consider retiring these words and phrases for good:

1. Bandwidth

Kathryn and Ross Petras, grammar experts and authors of “You’re Saying it Wrong” and “That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means,” say that bandwidth tops the list of phrases that professionals would like retired. “If you’re talking about internet usage, go for it,” say the authors. “But today, a lot of people use ‘bandwidth’ to refer to human capacities to take on a task — and it’s getting tired. It has officially become a buzzword that your business partners don’t have the bandwidth to keep hearing.” Instead, opt for “We don’t have the time/resources/capacity.” This can create an opportunity to address the larger issues of increasing staff, addressing priorities, or freeing up time.

2. Pivot

The word “pivot” took hold early in the COVID-19 era when businesses around the world were forced to reinvent themselves or perish. Originating from basketball terminology, a player pivots by keeping one foot planted while turning their body to head in a new direction. In sports, a pivot is a reactionary response. But in the corporate world, it can seem like every shift or slight change now gets labeled as a “pivot.” But a pivot should represent a fundamental change in strategy or direction, not just a minor tweak. Table this term and try alternatives such as “a major change in direction,” “take a new approach,” or “adopt a new strategy.”

3. Take It Offline

What began as a way to keep Zoom meetings on track is now one of the most universally unpopular business phrases. When someone wants to “take it offline,” they’re suggesting that part of the discussion move to a private channel, outside of the group setting. On the surface, it seems harmless enough. Taking something offline, however, can damage open communication, inclusion, and team alignment. It also seems like a convenient way to avoid uncomfortable topics, sometimes sending them to a black hole of corporate silence. If a deep-dive discussion takes a meeting off-track, consider saying, “Let’s talk about this one-on-one tomorrow” or “Let’s chat about this in a separate call after this meeting.” When a potential topic needs to be discussed privately, just say, “Let’s discuss this privately.” It works just as well in this context and avoids unnecessary corporate jargon.

4. Touch Base

This phrase hails from America’s favorite pastime — baseball, in which players are required to touch each base as they round the diamond to score a run. According to a Glassdoor survey, one in four employees think “touch base” is the most annoying buzzword. Instead of “touching base” on your next project, use specific alternatives such as, “Let’s meet for 10 minutes tomorrow to discuss the ABC project,” “Please send me an update on your progress by Wednesday,” or even the simple “Let’s catch up with each other about XYZ.”

5. Circle Back

Arguably one of the most hated phrases in the corporate space, “circle back” usually refers to revisiting a topic at a later date. Rather than relying on this tired and ambiguous phrase, why not just speak plainly? There’s power in direct, concise language. Just say, “Let’s discuss this tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.” Simple, clear, and specific.

6. Low-Hanging Fruit

Low fruit is easy to pick, so it’s not hard to see where this phrase comes from. In the corporate world, it means tasks that can be done quickly and easily, or those that deliver quick and reliable results. Because this can symbolize the easiest way out, it can create negative connotations. Instead, be clear and specific to avoid any potential misunderstandings. For example, try “Let’s tackle the XYZ marketing campaigns first” or “What are some obvious opportunities we may have overlooked?”

7. Think Outside the Box

“‘We need to think outside the box’ is incredibly overused to the point it almost has no meaning anymore,” says James Green, founder and CEO of “What people should be saying is ‘What are some other ways we can think of solving this problem that may not be the obvious solution?’” Here’s an alternative: “Explore creative solutions.”

8. Just Checking In/Following Up

Overused greetings like, “I was just checking in” or I’m just following up” don’t provide readers with a compelling reason to read or respond to a message. Instead, tailor the message to the specific needs of the person you are contacting. For example, you could say something like: “Since we last spoke, I’ve been thinking more about your goals. I have a few ideas I’d like to run by you.” Or, “Our discussion the other day has sparked some creative solutions I’m excited to share.” Start a conversation in a way that shows you value the reader’s time and have put thought into the discussion ahead.

9. Just a Friendly Reminder

“The one phrase that really bugs me is when people say, ‘Just a friendly reminder,’” says Brian Meiggs, founder of My Millennial Guide. “It can really come off as condescending since it is just a non-confrontational way to ask for something that’s late.” A better way to communicate an upcoming or overdue deadline is to be direct. Don’t apologize for reminding the reader, explain exactly what requires their attention, and include important dates or references to eliminate any confusion about what’s expected.

10. Give It 110 Percent

Not only is it mathematically impossible to give 110 percent effort, the phrase also smacks of high stress levels and overwork. When a manager says “110 percent,” employees hear “14-hour workdays,” “no time off,” and “zero work-life balance.” Instead, focus on “performing at our highest caliber” and “striving for excellence” while setting realistic expectations. Being specific is the key here. Team members may occasionally have to work longer-than-usual hours on an urgent or vital project. Create clarity around deadlines and responsibilities, so people can plan their schedules accordingly.

Elevate Your Conversations

Every industry and workplace have their own vocabulary — a shorthand for communicating within a small circle. While buzzwords, idioms, euphemisms, and catch phrases can streamline conversations and bond peers, they can cloud communication, cause misunderstandings, and simply get on people’s nerves. So, the next time you catch yourself reaching for overused corporate jargon, stop for a second. Ask yourself if there’s a more authentic way to express your message. Your colleagues and clients will thank you and your conversations will be all the better for it. What words or phrases would you like to retire? Reach out and let us know!

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Gerri Knilans

Marketing communications strategist. The right message. The right medium. Guaranteed.