If you remember, last week I asked What words make you want to scream? and we’ve had a lot of fun reading your replies.
Reader Tim H writes: “A couple of words have crept into business dialogue which really grind my gears. People I’ve never spoken to before calling me ‘mate’ or ‘bud’ – usually cold callers on the telephone. I haven’t yet called anyone out on this, but that day is getting nearer. I’m all in favour of friendly and informal dialogue, but don’t call me ‘mate’ until we mutually agree we are mates. And referring to your audience, or clients, or guests at a restaurant table as ‘guys’? Nothing to do with sexism, it’s just lazy and demonstrates poor vocabulary.”
Adrian C also has it in for overfamiliarity. “A couple of things grate with me. Firstly, although ubiquitous, the use of the word ‘Hi’ to start an email. I know it’s meant to denote friendliness and informality and so do use it myself, but it just annoys me. It just sounds artificially cheery.
“Secondly, if ‘Hi’ is overly informal, the other extreme (and often in the same email) is the use of the word ‘regards’ to finish an email. Do we really want give our regards to everyone we email? What do we even mean? I even receive the ‘regards’ of my colleagues! Ridiculously formal and old fashioned to my mind.”
Andy H objects to “People that I don’t know/barely know (who) email me with: ‘I hope you are well’ – as if they actually care, which they wouldn’t if they barely knew me anyway. A similar one that’s typically received on a Monday: ‘I hope you had a good weekend?’ What? You don’t even know me – I could be an axe-murderer busy killing people on a weekend for all you know!”
“Oh, and ‘unprecedented’ – that didn’t seem to exist pre-Covid, but is vastly overused everywhere since.”
Jennie T adds: “I was always told to never use ‘unique’. But it’s people who are ‘super excited’ and agree (or recommend things) ‘200 percent’ that make me scream!”
Karl R says: “I particularly hate ‘quick wins’ or ‘quick and dirty’. It’s a cover phrase for ‘sub-standard’ and I wouldn’t mind it so much if businesses ever showed any interest in planning some longer-term (or ‘slow and clean’, if you will) campaigns. You could say the same about UK politics these days!”
Graham L throws in one of his favourites to hate, ‘We pride ourselves…’ (“Sorry, Fred can’t come to the phone right now, he is busy priding himself in the next room”). ‘We are proud of’ is more direct, translates better and doesn’t trigger an unpleasant image.”
On the subject of unpleasant images, Wendy J suggests ‘pick your brain’. “Just no, not a nice visual image”, she says, and adds: “I’ve not invited many people to ‘touch my base’ in my lifetime, and I am certainly not about to start now. But my personal favourites are emails that use so many acronyms I am forced to use Google to understand. If I wanted text speech, I would message my children, thank you (FWIW IMO, it really doesn’t take TLTR a fully worded email. At the EOD I HTH).”
My long-standing campaign against the word ‘solutions’ has some backers; indeed, it may even have had some influence. Richard O wrote: “Ever since you started highlighting how meaningless it is many years ago, I can no longer stand the word ‘solutions’. What does your company do? We provide business solutions. Oh, that clears that up then.”
Andy P adds: “Good to see ‘solution’ in the list. I’m still trying to wean people off using it, especially in headlines. When I was at primary school, there was a chap resembling Mr Pickwick who took the second year. He had a pet hate of the word ‘nice’, for all the reasons we dislike ‘solution’. “Nice is a lazy word,” he would say, encouraging us to find an alternative word which better described the circumstances. Nice can be hot, cold, clean, pretty, long, short, fit, fast, shiny…the list goes on. And I’ve never used the word since!”
Michael D also mentions it: “‘Solutions provider’ when describing what a business does? – I am 0% clearer on what you do since the phrase was uttered. And the phrase ‘touch base with you’ always makes me think the speaker should be on some type of register. Also ‘reach out’ – are they falling and need catching?”
Claire C concurs: “The term that makes me want to scream isn’t really business jargon, but I’m seeing it more and more in business emails and marketing material. It’s ‘reach out’ (or ‘reaching out’) and it drives me mad! It conjures up images of either a drowning person and/or someone throwing up, neither of which is attractive! If I’ve contacted a potential supplier and their response starts with ‘Thanks for reaching out’ I ‘reach out’ for the delete button without hesitation. I imagine it’s an American import? Definitely one I’d love to ban!”
Bob P joins in: “Hardly new, but I loathe ‘reaching out’. And just today, an organisation reached out to me to learn about ‘Network Portal Onboarding’. ‘Onboarding’ – ugh!”
Finally, Andy J writes in (rather than reaches out) with the following: “As the sole marketer in an engineering SME company, I am not exposed to many of the words listed in the original article. My down-to-earth, unpretentious colleagues do not ‘reach out’, they call or email. Having Googled ‘single source of truth’, I can assure you that we haven’t achieved it. Our salesmen do talk a lot about providing a ‘solution’, and this is an ongoing battle for me. The article included ‘engagement’ as one of the words to ban. However, as GA4 uses this meaningless term, I think it will be used even more. The article also suggests banning ‘check out’ as a call to action. It may not be banned, but I will certainly stop using it now. I am truly sorry.
“My contribution to your list would be ‘myself’ (“Please send it to myself” …”I think your colleague spoke to myself”). This is almost becoming standard. Myself, and probably yourself, finds it particularly annoying.
“I cannot see my email winning the packet of biscuits, which is fine as myself is on a diet.”
Unfortunately Andy, for that reason alone, I think we’ll be sending something to yourself.
I’ll leave you all with this:
Useful flowchart: Is it acceptable to use the term "reach out" in the workplace? pic.twitter.com/YmXCTjBvuB
— Andrew Bloch (@AndrewBloch) August 24, 2015