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Photo originally uploaded to Flickr by user Alan. Used under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC 2.0.

Photo originally uploaded to Flickr by user Alan. Used under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC 2.0.

Last week I posted an article to Facebook that I found on Inc.com: Please Stop Saying These 25 Ridiculous Phrases at Work. A lot of my friends outed themselves as guilty when it comes to these phrases. Even I say some of them from time to time, despite trying to avoid things that are trite and overused. To help everyone, I thought I would provide some suggestions of what you can say instead of these phrases, so you don’t sound ridiculous.

1. At the end of the day. Instead try: ultimately, in the end, eventually, when it comes down to it.

2. Back to the drawing board. How about a simple, “let’s start over” or “let’s begin again”? Avoid the equally trite, “Back to square one.”

3. Hit the ground running. “Get started right away.” “Get right to it.”

4. Get the ball rolling. Basically, this one is the opposite of “back to the drawing board.” Try “get started,” “get things going,” or just, “begin.”

5. Low-hanging fruit. Depending on context, you could substitute “easy,” “obvious,” or “inconsequential.”

6. Throw under the bus. Be more dramatic about it. Try “betray” or “stab in the back.”

7. Think outside the box. This is one of my top five most annoying expressions. What you really mean is that you want to think creatively, or think differently. (Don’t get me started on Apple’s old “Think Different” ad campaign. It makes me cringe. Adverbs matter, people!)

8. Let’s touch base. Unless you are playing baseball, no, you are not going to touch base. Let’s talk. Let’s chat. Check back with me.

9. Get my manager’s blessing. Do you work at a church? Is your manager a member of the clergy? No? Then you’re not getting anyone’s blessing. Just say, “I need to speak with my manager” or “Let me get my manager’s approval.”

10. It’s on my radar. You are neither an airplane nor a ship. You do not have radar. You can be aware of “it.” Or you can have “it” on your to-do list. You cannot have it on your radar.

11. Ping me. AAAAAAAGHHHHHH! This is my number one biggest corporate-speak pet peeve. How the fuck did this one even get started? You’re not a submarine. You don’t have sonar. No one can send out a ping to determine your location. And unless you want to be beaten with a Ping golf club, don’t ever say this to me. What’s wrong with “email me,” or “call me,” or “send me a fucking carrier pigeon,” or whatever your preferred method of communication happens to be?

12. I don’t have the bandwidth. Just as you are not an airplane or a ship, neither are you a computer or a radio. YOU DO NOT HAVE BANDWIDTH. Instead, try: I’m too busy. I’m fully booked. I really don’t have time. My schedule is full.

13. No brainer. Much like “low-hanging fruit,” this one can be used in different contexts and can alternately mean “easy,” “obvious,” “a foregone conclusion,” or if you want to be fancy, “a fait accompli.”

14. Par for the course. Unless you have just finished a round of golf, shooting a 72, where 72 is, in fact, par for the course, do not use this phrase. People tend to forget that “par for the course” has an actual meaning. “Par” is the number of strokes a good golfer should require to complete a hole and, ultimately, the entire course. If you’ve shot par for the course, you’ve done quite well. Instead, people use the phrase when they really want to say, “that’s the way of it,” or “that’s the way it goes.”

15. Bang for your buck. What you’re really trying to say is that you will get more value, or see a greater return on your investment. So say that.

16. Synergy. It means teamwork. And “teamwork” is a lot more descriptive than “synergy.” And please, I beg of you, do not use the term “synergies.” Would you pluralize “teamwork”? No. No you would not.

17. Move the goal post. This is another one that’s like nails on a chalkboard to me, primarily because it doesn’t even make sense. You can’t move the goal post! The goal post sits at a defined point exactly 120 yards away from the opposite goal post. You can move the yardage markers (or chains), but you CANNOT MOVE THE GOAL POST. Just say you want to see results or make progress and stop sounding like an idiot.

18. Apples to apples. Honestly, this one doesn’t bug me so much, but what you mean to say is that you’re comparing like items.

19. Win-win. “Mutually beneficial.”

20. Circle back around. Are you lost? Why are you circling back around? I think what you mean is that you will “follow up on” or “check back.”

21. All hands on deck. Are you a ship captain ordering your “swabbies” to man the cannons against pirates? I’m guessing that you are not. In which case, just say that you need everyone’s help, input, or cooperation.

22. Take this offline. If you’re engaged in verbal sparring in the comments section of a website and you decide that you want to meet with the person in real life, either for pleasant conversation or for fisticuffs, then sure, go ahead and use this phrase. You are literally “online” and want to take things “offline,” which is still a stupid way to phrase it, but at least it makes sense. Otherwise, don’t be a doofus. What you really want to say is that you want to continue the discussion later or elsewhere. And no, email conversations do not count as “online,” so don’t even try it.

23. Drill down. Dentists, electricians, construction workers, and other people using ACTUAL DRILLS are allowed to use this phrase. If you are none of these, say that you want to “look more closely,” “investigate,” or “analyze.”

24. Elephant in the room. There’s no elephant. If there is, you probably have bigger problems than hackneyed expressions. Just admit that there’s an uncomfortable truth that needs to be addressed.

25. On my plate. See “I don’t have the bandwidth” above. Unless you’re a competitive eater or a chef, you really don’t have a lot on your plate. You have a lot to do.

Just for funsies, try putting a dollar in a jar every time you catch yourself saying one of the 25 phrases in this list. The negative reinforcement should be enough to help you change your ways. Good luck!

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