The one-sentence summary

Language in the workplace matters – it can inspire or deflate, so choose your words carefully.


  • This is a compendium of words and phrases to avoid in business.
  • It is similar to a Business Bullshit dictionary, but is divided into sections with different types of such language, and tries to deconstruct the worst offending items so that the more thoughtful person at work can avoid them.
  • Language in the workplace matters because it can inspire or deflate.
  • An essential aspect of any organisation is the way in which it communicates, internally or externally, and the language used can contribute greatly to its potential success, or failure.
  • Garbled words and manipulated phrases can lead to plain deceit, and we all need to be on the lookout for it.
  • The language used can drastically alter the way something is interpreted, and this can also vary by audience, so great care is needed.


  • Areas to look out for in corporate speak include:

~ Cliché: back to basics, core/non-core, customer focused, re-engineer

~ Strategy waffle: direction, approach, fit, high/low risk, exit, goals

~ Attempted perception change: barriers, benchmarking, best practice, big picture, comfort zone, competitive advantage, continuous improvement

  • The liar’s best friend is the euphemism – disguising something bad in different language, such as getting rid of a member of staff: axed, busted, chopped, cut, fired, terminated, canned, ditched, let go, etc.
  • Metaphors are also guilty: ball juggling, back on the coal face, all singing, all dancing, finger on the pulse, cycling with no saddle…
  • And so are idioms: bang for your buck, eating your own dog food, riding the razor blade, smoke and mirrors job…
  • And the simile: drive that message home, like herding cats, not comparing apples with apples, having a flight path, as easy as ABC…
  • And acronyms: AFLO (Another Fucking Learning Opportunity), ASTRO (Always Stating The Really Obvious), BOHICA (Bend Over, Here it Comes Again), PICNIC (Problem In Chair Not In Computer)…


  • Not much, but those working in large organisations need to balance their annoyance at this type of language with a means of working with it, because it won’t go away, and the constant protestor could come across as a cynic.