Small Business Show - The Language of Business

It’s a brand new year and the goals of your company in 2015 need to lay out on the table.

Small Business Show - The Language of Business

Business speak and jargon has become one of the great enemies of businesses in the modern era.

It has proved itself to be pretentious and over bearing. Your staff won’t understand what you really mean and customers feel baffled by you trying to look smart in front of them.

What you say and how you say it represents your company and who you are, so keep it simple and keep what you say jargon free.

It’s not about you looking good, it’s about how people perceive you.

We have all been subjected to catch phrases, acronyms and pointless word usage when trying to find out what a company does.

How often have you read something like “We need to move now.

Our competitors already aggregate proven synergy”. Translation – ‘Our competitors are better than us at this’.

This use of jargon has polluted business meetings around the world and it really needs to be stopped.

Impressions of being smart can quickly evaporate and using inefficient language can be a killer in the workplace.

So when you’re pitching new ideas to your business team here are some things to avoid:

Think Outside the Box and other annoying phrases Oh my word how this phrase finds itself everywhere, so much so that it has lost its glow and become more of an irritancy than a motivational call for new thinking.

Thinking differently has never been something new in business. In order to survive every business must develop new ways to approach how they do business.

Asking somebody to ‘think outside the box’ is like asking them to open a door with no key, vague and unhelpful. On a comment was left below an article talking about this which simply said ‘Forget the box, just think’.


Poor self-help books and business books are chocked full of these.

It is a lazy way to produce ideas and actually means the reader must fill in the blanks on their own, in which case you never really needed the book in the first place if you thought of it yourself.

Like a magician using misdirection, it is a classic way for people to think that looking clever is more important than being clever.

A clever boss knows how to get the best out of their team without settling into over-elaborate speak and phraseology.


ABC, ETA, ROI & WFH are all great examples of a TLA, sorry I mean a three letter acronym. Acronyms are some of the most cumbersome aspects of speaking business.

You don’t work in the army and it doesn’t save time so stop using them.

I was once at business breakfast where the speaker used three different acronyms in one sentence, I was happy to look around and see that everybody else in the room had the same blank expression on their face as I did.

I had no clue what the guy was talking about and even after deciphering the words I had missed what he was saying in the meantime so his speech just became a blur of encryption and me scrambling in my bag to see if I had an enigma machine.

Acronyms have invaded the boardroom via texting and how we right to people. Social media has sped up the process by limiting characters in posts and giving the impression that information has to be given out fast in case your late with some world shattering news.

This in turn has meant that we have let acronyms through the office door because everybody else was doing it.

This was a big mistake and it has led to an increase in what people think you do and what you actually do.

Just because you may know what the acronym stands for doesn’t mean your audience does so don’t use them at all. Your team needs to fully understand what it is they are being asked to do so speak to them like you’d speak to your friends outside of business (things like LOL are also unacceptable in this case).

Your management staff are going to be sharing this information with the rest of the company so if they don’t what you’re talking about, then god only knows where you’re heading in 2015. Keep it simple, stupid (ironically this has also has the acronym KISS).


My wife’s favourite movie is The Princess Bride.

One of the villains in the movie, Vizzini, constantly uses the word ‘Inconceivable!’ to announce his dismay every time the hero evades his plans to get rid of him.

He uses it to such a point where one of his sidekicks quips “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”.

So it is with business and the dreaded buzzword. Synergy, vertical, dynamic and strategy, the list of buzzwords is very long.

Most of them are used out of context and rely on the sound of the word rather than its meaning. Buzzword Bingo is an office game which has sprung up in recent years in order to entertain staff around those who consistently use these tiresome words.

In fact the Wall Street Journal has created the Business Buzzword Generator which allows plain English sentences be transformed into ‘meaningless business phrases using overused business buzzwords’ which have been submitted by WSJ readers.

The buzzword word is dangerous because it means an automatic tune out by the listener. These words have lost their meaning and don’t facilitate exactly what you are really trying to say. In short you sound silly and your expression is hollow.

It’s time to invest in a thesaurus and created a simplified language which will make it easier to bring your ideas to your audience.

Keep It Simple

Speaking plain English is what is at the heart of all of this. Nobody wants to sit and listen to somebody who needs everybody to know they are the smartest person in the room.

Whether it’s your business meetup in January or selling your product to people, the simplification of language has become essential everyday business.

I’m going to be honest with you and by honest I mean blunt.

I really don’t give a crap about your product or service unless you sell it to me. That means speaking my language and producing something that speaks to me.

If you want people in your business to buy into your ideas then it makes sense that you speak sense.

Too often business people get caught up with how we show people that our business is great. Instead we should be looking at why our business makes sense to the customer and sense to our staff.

So stop with all the nonsensical chatter and get down to the simplicity of the business. Your goals and your visions need to take on the simplest forms they can.

That starts with the language you use in and out of the boardroom.

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