We all want to seem smart and confident in the workplace, especially when talking to a colleague or boss. But sometimes, the office jargon we use to sound intelligent can come across as showy and annoying.
One in five professionals say they dislike corporate jargon, according to the e-learning platform Preply, which surveyed 1,551 Americans working in-office or remotely. What's more, the use of business jargon can even be off-putting on a job posting, with 70% of respondents saying seeing it in a job description influences their decision to apply and 20% of professionals saying that jargon in a job description is a red flag.
John Bowe, a public speaking expert, says that professionals can speak with greater impact by avoiding office lingo and other terms which aim to make themselves sound smart.
"The single biggest driver of bad public speaking is the desire to seem smart," he tells CNBC Make It. "When you make yourself harder to understand, you're making your listener's mind work harder. Use simpler words and you'll have greater impact."
According to Bowe, here are 10 "puffery" words and phrases to avoid in the workplace:
- Writ large
- At this point in time
- Zoom out
- 30,000 foot view
- Out of pocket
These phrases can seem pretentious because they aren't clear and concise — they dance around the real message a professional is trying to get across and can sometimes be misinterpreted.
Take "at this point in time" for example: Bowe says the extra words in this phrase draw attention away from your point. Instead, professionals should opt for brief and straight to the point words, such as "now" or "currently."
"When time is money, extra words aren't kind or pleasing — they're distracting. Nothing shows respect like clarity," Bowe said in a CNBC Make It article. "Don't beat around the bush. People will appreciate you more when you say what you have to say."
Phrases like "30,000 foot view" and "out of pocket" can also be confusing, according to Bowe.
"[Saying] 'I'll be out of pocket next week' instead of saying 'I'm unavailable'" can be puzzling, he explains. "My understanding is out of pocket is used to refer to expenses that you pay outside of your expense account."
Ultimately, Bowe says using simple and easy-to-understand jargon will take you much further when it comes to sounding smart at work.
"There's a great quote from Confucius about clever talk. And he said, basically, smart people don't indulge in clever talk. They just are brief and to the point."
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