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Office speak can be a very fraught area. Falling into the trap of using business buzzwords can be easy to do – and a difficult habit to break. 

And it can be a real no-no when establishing rapport in professional communications – and trying to make a positive impact in meetings, emails and speeches.

Compiled by PR strategist, Hamish Thompson – who has worked with more than 150 businesses globally – the list flags dangerous words and phrases, so employees can be aware of the impact.

Here’s the top 10 and why – according to judges – they are so excruciating:

‘Curated
Judge’s comment: “A word that has been brutalised by so-called Hipster culture. Google practically anything – potatoes, burgers, you name it – and there’ll be a curated list somewhere in the world.” 

‘Content’
Judge’s comment: “Second only to the vacuum of space as the emptiest thing in the universe. It’s like calling literature or journalism ‘words’.”

‘Human capital’
Judge’s comment: “The latest in the personnel department’s march towards balance sheet.”

‘In the time of COVID’
Judge’s comment: “Gabriel Garcia Marquez (author of Love in the time of Cholera) it ain’t.”

‘Ideation’
Judge’s comment: “A bold attempt to make a bad idea sound better than it is by diverting our attention.”

‘Fake news’
Judge’s comment: “An oxymoron of such heft that only a moron could coin it. Unfortunately, it has caught on.”


‘Mainstream media’
Judge’s comment: “A tedious blamefest, thinly disguising a lack of ability to debate properly.” (Not to be confused with Donald Trump’s 'lamestream media')

‘We remain cautious’
Judge’s comment: “These three opaque words are the most overused and expensive a company will ever buy.”

‘Going forward ...’
Judge’s comment: “I long for the day someone writes ‘going backward’.”

‘Solutions’
Judges comment: “Long-time Hall of Shame member, best exemplified by the sticker company that describes itself as ‘a global leader in adhesive labelling solutions’.”

Dishonourable mentions:

‘Preneur’
Judge’s comment: “Rule of thumb: if someone describes themselves as an entrepreneur, they probably aren’t. Worse still ‘cakepreneur’, ‘burgerpreneur’ and so on. Fun game: Try putting any word in front of preneur and googling it. Chances are, there is one.”

‘Awesome’
Judge’s comment: “Not since the devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar, has something devalued as much as the word ‘awesome’. To be full of awe in the presence of a tea towel or poached egg is setting a very low bar.”

Parts of this article first appeared on the HR Grapevine website