What Cliched Work Phrases Would You Retire?

What Cliched Work Phrases Would You Retire?

If you’ve worked in an office, chances are you’re surrounded by people who use cliched phrases like “touch base” and “circle back” every time they’re in a meeting, delivering a presentation or giving a speech. Whether or not these phrases once had meaning, they’ve long since lost their meaning for many. They’ve actually got the opposite effect now, because they’re so cliched. So which phrases should you avoid? Meeting Boy has a list.

Here are the top 10 in his poll of 25 (hit his site to see more).

  • think outside the box (16%)
  • circle back (15%)
  • synergy (14%)
  • it is what it is (13%)
  • touch base (13%)
  • at the end of the day (13%)
  • let’s take this offline (12%)
  • low-hanging fruit (11%)
  • value-added (11%)
  • proactive (10%)

If you know anyone who uses these phrases feel free to show them this post. You can’t blame the words, but it’s worth keeping your language fresh and cliche-free when possible to avoid weakening the point you’re trying to make. You’ve heard one blogger’s take, but let’s hear your most-hated work cliches in the comments.

The Most Hated Buzzword [Meeting Boy]


  • The amount of times I hear “At the end of the day” by my Engineers, Project Manager, and fellow Colleagues almost made me go insane until a nightmare of a person took up the empty cubicle next to me. Now i have to put up with words like “Retarded”, “Insanity”, “Delicious”, and 90% of all sentences end with “Aye”.

  • I 100% agree with this list – “at the end of the day” is one of the most used here in my office.

    But with that list all well and good – I would like to have seen a list of alrternatives, these phrases are used because they bridge divides between sentences (Think of these as “extended conjunctions”.) and relax the atmosphere of meetings – which is a really good way of creating connections in the workplace.

    Maybe someone out there (or MeetingBoy) has a list of phrases that ARE acceptable?

  • Some of these are annoying not (primarily) because they’re cliches, but because they obscure thought or promote bad or discredited ideas – “best practice” (on Meeting Boy’s longer list), for example. Some are indeed annoying because they’re used ad nauseum by lazy speakers. Others I still find useful as shorthand. “Touch base,” for example, describes a necessary activity in fewer words than alternative formulations would.

  • “across it” – I think this one is relatively new as I only started hearing it in the last 6 to 9 months.. but we can retire this one today as far as I am concerned… it sounds stupid in all but a very few statements. “I’m across it”.. sounds fine but it finds itself being used WAY too much “across” the business.

    “Engaged/Engagement”… ergh *shudder*

  • When my organisation was upgrading to Vista, people were asking “Have you been Vistarised yet?

    That one really annoyed me. Marketeer is another one I don’t like.

  • It probably doesn’t fit in here, it’s more of an annoyance.

    But I cannot stand people pronouncing ’employer’ as ’employER’. If it’s in a sentence where you’re saying ’employee’ and you want to differentiate, sure. But placing the emphasis on the ‘er’ EVERY time just makes you sound stupid.

    It’d be like going to the ‘greengrocER’ or using the ‘computER’.

  • “Low Hanging Fruit” = we’re cheap and won’t give you the budget to implement a raft of changes that will improve the efficiency of this office, instead can we do this in Excel?


  • “Let me speak to that…” (You’re speaking to ME, not that!)
    “Reaching out” (You’re not Mother Theresa)
    “Leverage” (is a noun, not a verb)
    “Diarise” (Please don’t. Just put it in your diary!)

  • I hate when people talk about the “ecosystem” or use “organic” …we’re programmers…not gardeners. Lets try just plain “system” and “dynamic” 🙂

  • “Let’s take this offline” is massively overused in my office and really get’s under my skin. I also used to really hate “touch base” but luckily I haven’t had to hear it too much in my current role.

  • Guys, at the end of the day, we need to think outside the box and realise it is what it is. Let’s take this offline, and start going forward and diarise the ones we hate most. At the end of the day, if we can get it down in a dynamic and organic way, I think that when we touch base next we’ll find we’re taking it to the next level. We’ll synergise that and circle back, and all in all, at the end of the day, that will be proactive.

  • Working for a US software vendor or two I can vouch for some of these being a total pain in the ass. It is what it is!

    One that’s been cropping up a bit lately is “let’s switch gears now” as a cliched way to say “let me abruptly change the tangent”. Also, many Americans pronounce the word “processes” as “processEES”. This makes Baby Jesus cry.

  • First world problems, seriously does it really matter if a person uses any of these cliches. Should the person be judged by their work not by how they talk. It’s all established protocall and people complaining usuall contribute very little, most often offended because it generates more work for them, by a manager or up coming member of staff.

  • I actually can’t think of an alternative to “low hanging fruit”. I hate cliches, but there’s no easy option to describe “the easy things we can do first before we move onto more difficult stuff” is there? “Easy options” is good, but sometimes they’re not easy, and it doesn’t really set the right tone.

  • Oh man. I ve been out of the workforce for a few years and coming back i detest these so much!!! At least “outside the box” “synergy” etc make sense, albeit cliched…but “lets this offline” or “touch base” make absolutely no sense whatsoever! and people just parrot these sayings without thinking about them.

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