Thinking outside the corporate box.


by Ashley Morrison.

As a copywriter, a major part of the job revolves around using the right words to convey the right message in the most effective and persuasive way possible. If you're selling a product, you want the customer to read the copy and think, "˜I need that. NOW." That can only be achieved if they are absolutely crystal clear about what the message is.

And yet I'm constantly amazed by how many companies use such ridiculous corporate jargon when they could simply cut to the chase (oh, sorry, there's one overused phrase for a start) and say what they mean more clearly. And no, this doesn't just apply to sales; it applies to the office environment in general, too.

Very often this jargon is tossed around the meeting room willy-nilly because it supposedly makes the speaker sound more business-like. Warning: it doesn't; it makes them sound pretentious.

So here are my top ten phrases to avoid at all costs, and an explanation of what they actually mean:


Reach out

This is a relatively new one. It's as naff as those trainers with flashing lights in their soles. "Why don't you reach out to Maxine in marketing," they say, "and see if you can procure some relevant data?"

What they mean: "Email/phone Maxine; she might have some useful information." Unless you want to be hauled up in front of HR for sexual harassment, I strongly suggest you don't "reach out" to Maxine -“ especially not at the office Christmas party.


Push the envelope

They've clearly been watching Michael Douglas in Wall Street or something and may well have invested in a nice new pair of red braces. It doesn't, however, simply mean, "let's get this done quickly", as a lot of people think. Taken from the aviation industry, it actually means introducing new and innovative ideas into already established and accepted practices.


Think outside the box

I once went for a more senior position with one of my former employers. It came down to me and one other guy, and they eventually chose him. I asked for some constructive feedback about where I could have done better. "Warren was thinking more outside the box," they explained. When I asked for an example, they said, "he showed more proactive lateral thinking." Hm. Of course, it's obvious that they meant that he had thought beyond the specified scope of the role, but failing to clarify what I could have improved on to secure the job wasn't very helpful. They just hid behind a vague and indeterminate phrase instead.


Leverage best practice

This just sounds a bit pompous. It simply means adopting a way of working which is better than another way of working (although who judges that to be the case might itself be questionable).


Over the wall

If you're asked to send something "œover the wall" to someone, it doesn't mean bunging it over the partition in your open-plan office. It just means send it.


Let's touch base

Oh, for God's sake. Let's just speak shortly, OK?



I've had a brilliant idea. I want to implement it, but I want you to agree with me unreservedly even though I didn't consult you about it. Just accept that I've done all the work and then you can lazily say,"yeah, I'm fine with that, right? Thanks. I've now got your buy-in."


Fit for purpose

I hate this one. I'd rather go all Ronseal on you instead and say, "it does what it says on the tin". All it means is that something does what it's supposed to do. End of.


Core competencies

You'll see this more often in job specifications. You'll need to have these 'core competencies' to do the job. But competence itself doesn't necessarily mean you're very good at something, which is what the employer actually wants. For instance, I'm a competent cook, but I'd never get a job as a chef unless I was applying to work at Nando's - and even then, that's pushing it.

These are just ten of my most hated examples of corporate jargon. There are endless others…so what’s your most hated example of business speak?

Ashley Morrison is a blogger, copywriter and editor.


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