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Secrete Society to Some or Lazy Language - Corporate Speak Uncloaked and Fun Quotes About Communication

Updated on January 26, 2016

Words binds us together. No one knows this better than a journalist, a writer, blogger, or hubber. Words that are unique to your industry allows you to enter sacred places. If you wish to be apart of a group, you must "talk the walk". Corporate America is infused with "corporate speak". Some claim corporate speak is a lazy language. I disagree. Yes, if it is overused but we overuse words all the time. The key is to know all the words and use them when appropriate and in small doses. No words is great when overused. Yes, even Google will penalize you for "word stuffing". Likewise, your corporate career needs to have a large vocabulary of rich words and phrases. If you don't overuse it, you will never be accused of "lazy language". If you don't use corporate speak when appropriate, or worst yet if you don't know the language of corporate speak, you will hinder your informal power.

Corporate American can hand you formal power, the title, the corner office, only you can earn the informal power. How do you achieve informal power? You get results, you speak the language, you motivate. Having an arsenal of various terms is critical for all management levels. For upper management, an arsenal of appropriate terms will surely determine the kind of car you drive, the house you live in, your managerial upward mobility.

Journey with us as we explore action terms that are unique only to certain environment. Not the blue suit type and have no interest in corporate America, stay tune, we have something for everyone including farm terms and radio terms. Learn what phrases are powerful, learn what action terms to use, learn the power of a verb in a sentence and you will communicate better to both upper management, your peers and your staff members. Learn what phrases motivate people and establish your power base from your knowledge, your management style and contribute to your organization with the informal power base you have built not the formal power base the organization has crafted for you. Take control of your destiny with words.

3 Types of Business Words

Words are magical and yet in business, there are to me three specific types, all them have their specific role to play but sometimes they can be overused and if the tire is worn through if the words are overused, to my opinion, then we are using these words as jargon and they serve nothing more than as a verbal crutch no different than an uncomfortable "um". Speaking can be magical if the proper words are chosen. From movies to television series, we can see words play an important part in our culture but what about business. Where do the words begin and end and where do they become overused? What types of business words can review together? Here are three fundamental types that I can clearly see:

  1. Words specific to certain industries
  2. Words - common business terms across all industries
  3. Power words - words that elicit control and direction

Are all these "corporate speak" words simply jargon? When is a word overused? Does it become jargon only in the setting it is used? When are these words acceptable?

Overused Words Poster

Colorful Visual Poster of Overused Words
Colorful Visual Poster of Overused Words

Is Jargon Better Than Overused Words?

Jargon is a part of our corporate culture, it is an integral part of corporate life for many of us to do our jobs. However, it is often argued about as to whether jargon is really necessary.

Overused words I feel can lead us to intellectual malnutrition. Teenagers are perhaps the biggest offender of overused words but sadly many adults continue overusing words and abusing the beauty of communication.

What is beautiful communication? Beautiful communication is communication with a rich tapestry of words. Beautiful communication is more than black and white, it is a full spectrum of color that conveys the true event or emotion of the situation at hand. Beautiful communication is crafting words together in full sentences that include the best and most appropriate adjectives for the most accurate conveyance of thought.

Great Painters and Great Communicators

Some of the greater painters in the world are very obvious - take the Mona Lisa whose smile continues to spark discussions. Take a look at the work of Norman Rockwell who is often described as the story teller with a brush.

That is what words should be us - a canvas that clearly displays the entire story with no missing pieces.

Let's celebrate great art such as Norman Rockwell and let's all see to aspire to communicate in a way that offers a full and rich picture to the listener.

Plain Language Helpful Tips

"There are many writing techniques that can help you achieve this goal. Among the most common are:

  • Logical organization with the reader in mind
  • "You" and other pronouns
  • Active voice
  • Short sentences
  • Common, everyday words
  • Easy-to-read design features"


Cardinal Rule of Communication

We will not use acronyms without first referring to what they actually mean.

Words Can Make Us Feel Better or Worse

Words can make us feel better or worst. Words do have power. Sadly the power of words is waning and the world is turning quickly to Tweets and Videos. What is the world coming to? We are sub coming to our visual senses and forgetting the value of language and trained voice. In commercials we are heralding animation and the speaking voices associated with some of the top commercials obviously have no vocal training. Our ears and our minds are starving and yet our eyes are being filled with visual delights.

The world of business has always been fought with "corporate speak". A "lazy language" to some, a hidden secrete society to others.

Sadly in our society today, one of the most memorable lines is from a television show where the final words are You're Fired.



Jargon - Speech or writing having unusual or pretentious vocabulary, convoluted phrasing, and vague meaning.

Jargon is Easy - Real Language Takes Work

It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.

Say the Right Thing Famous Quote

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
Benjamin Franklin

Type 1 - Industry Specific Example - Radio Terms

Four and out the door meaning four hours on air and then out the door.

Pretentious Jargon

Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.
David Ogilvy

Avoid Jargon

Aim for brevity while avoiding jargon.
Edsger Dijkstra

Mental Garbage

You must learn to talk clearly. The jargon of scientific terminology which rolls off your tongues is mental garbage.
Martin H. Fischer

Type 2 - Common Business Terms

End of the day

End Result

Interview in Corporate Speak

Type 2 - Common Business Terms and Actions - Job Well Done

High Five


Norman Rockwell - The Story Teller with a Brush

Norman Rockwell the story teller with a paint brush with a painting of children
Norman Rockwell the story teller with a paint brush with a painting of children | Source

Llardo Love Letter Writer - Inspired by the Story Teller with a Brush

Llardo Love Letter Writer - another story teller with a brush or in this case porcelain with a dog and a small boy
Llardo Love Letter Writer - another story teller with a brush or in this case porcelain with a dog and a small boy | Source

Animation = Language

Walt Disney believed animation was language.

working alongside a foul mouthed colleague in the office is unacceptable.

Corporate Speak - Terms Words for the Corporate Culture

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Type 3 - Electronic Messaging - Tweeting and Texting

I don't mind print going away. I can embrace technology. I do mind text, good, solid, well constructed language going away.

I can understand and appreciate those who are attempting English. I love broken English because someone is trying.

What I cannot stand is the text messaging and the tweets where one must interpret the intend of the communication.

Is this good for us? Is this new abbreviated language going to bring us closer as a world? Hmmm...

Politics and Language

"It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written."


Type 3 - Business Words or "Power Words"

Some words in business are necessary to evoke "power" and ability to get the job done. Yes, c-level executives have power but some words such as circle back and other negotiating terms evoke a sense of control and therefore power.

C-Level Executive

C Level Executive

"C-level suiter"

The highest-level executives are usually called "C-level" or part of the "C-suite, referring to CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO (Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer)

Circle Back

To revisit or follow up.

Corporate America

The urban dictionary defines it as:
"Term used to direct the blame of something bad somewhere else"

Leverage – utilization of all available resources

Opportunity – the corporate word for problem

Metrics – implies some type of scientific and or quantifiable analysis

Yellow-pad It – a group of people sitting around shooting the bull

Vision Mapping – a new term for strategic thinking

Refreshing - Downsizing - Layoffs

America does speak another language in business but don't take my word for it (pun intended), look at what another author has to say about words and the business world's use of words. I see words that are power builders but this author has a different point of view and sees words as cloaking the situation - take a close look here:

"American businesses speak another language.

Instead of laying off employees, they “rightsize.” When they run out of time, they make a “hard stop.” And common sense becomes “best practices.”

What does it matter to you? A lot, actually.

Behind the corporate-speak, companies can hide their true intentions. Understand what they’re saying and you can be a smarter consumer.

Here are a few key words to know:

Bandwidth: A term for resources, specifically time. When someone mentions limited bandwidth, it has nothing to do with high-speed connectivity. “I don’t have the bandwidth for that” means they’re too busy for you.

Consumer-centric: Synonym for “we love our customers” meaning “we will do whatever it takes to please you.” If it’s used in your presence, it’s probably just the opposite. Time to walk out — or close your browser.

Dirty pool: Commonly used to describe the unethical business practices of a competitor. If someone is calling out a rival for “dirty pool” you know there’s trouble.

Outside the box: A clichéd way of describing what’s probably an unsanctioned resolution to a problem. It usually has nothing to do with the packaging or the way it’s produced.

Ping: An Internet-derived term for checking in or reminding you of something. Pinging is not as indecent as it sounds. It’s what you do when you remind your boss or friend he forgot something. You ping your coworkers, but not your customers.

Transparent: Another word for “open and honest.” In the rare instance when a business shows you the price it’s paying for the product – in other words, its actual cost – it’s being transparent.

Sustainable: Outside the business world, sustainable means “environmentally friendly”—something that can be reused in another product, giving it a second or third life. However, within corporate society, it’s the business that is being “sustained.” Be sure that brands explain which one they mean when referring to a product as “sustainable.”

Win-win: A common term that says you and the business both benefit from the transaction. However, a true “win-win” is rare. Most are “win-lose” transactions. And guess who loses? It’s not the company.

Spend any amount of time visiting corporate headquarters and speaking with executives and it’s clear that those folks see us differently from the way we see ourselves. It is all too easy to objectify people who are customers, referring to them as “sales” or “prospects.”

That’s all the more reason to learn their language. We may catch them referring to us in the most unflattering way right in front of us. If you’re doing business with an ethical, transparent, company that holds your definition of win-win, they’ll talk about you like the respected customer you are.

And if they aren’t? You know what to do."

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate who blogs about getting better customer service at On Your Side. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or send him your questions by email.

Does "corporate speak" hide the real intentions of corporations?

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The Trades

Meaning trade journal.

Technology Terms


Cloud Computer

Open Source



"First be a great craftsman, it won't prevent you from being a genius."

Way point - a reference in navigation as a reference in traveling or concepts.

Some Movies Celebrate Words

Just watched the movie "The Book Thief". This movie celebrated as its title aptly describes books but it also celebrated words with the child cherishing each word in her basement. The ending of the movie implied that she went on to greatness but did not give express credit to her wordsmith ability. This movie I thought could have been great if it tied up in a bow neatly the relationship of great language to success but alas the director left the closing chapter fuzzy and essentially up to the viewer's discretion and imagination.

Words need to be celebrated as much as movies do. Some of the greatest television shows are not just about great authors, they are about the great writers.

Let's celebrate diversity in word choice, work actively on a larger vocabulary and bring the intellectural level of both ourselves and our children up a level. Life is all about growing and expanding, let's celebrate life with the millions of fabulous words that can precisely desribe an event or an emotion, Let's be like the child in the book thief and cling to the intangible items that stay with us, the words that learn and the words that use daily. Let's remember her describing the evening sky to the man who lived in the basement for 2 years in order to save his life. Life is more than words but oh, we are so much richer if we crave a great vocabulary.

© 2014 Kelly Kline Burnett


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