14 Overused Business Phrases We Must Retire (And Better Ways to Communicate)

By Rachel Fausnaught

There are over 470,000 entries in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, with scores added every year. Yet in business, we tend to overuse the comfortable phrases we’ve become accustomed to, thinking we sound smart.

News flash: We don’t actually sound smart.

I’m guilty of it. You’re guilty of it. Your clients are guilty of it. Using these clichés must stop now. Communication (read: good communication) is critical for your business to succeed. It helps you establish credibility among clients and even employees.

I reached out to business professionals across the United States for their number one buzzword pet peeve, and better ways to communicate it. You’ll want to save this list.

I’ll get back to you

“For me, the most frustratingly overused term in our organization is ‘I’ll get back to you.’ As an international team working across multiple time zones, this puts a giant question mark over the schedule of the task at hand. A much better way of handling these situations is to tackle them head on. Set yourself a date and time to review the query, give yourself a little leeway to actually react, and reply and commit to it in your response. This keeps everyone accountable for their own tasks and allows people to remain in sync with their duties!”
—Jon Hayes, marketer at Pixel Privacy

I hope you’re doing well

“My number one overused business cliche that needs to go away is ‘I hope you’re doing well.’ Why? It’s not sincere. If you’re prospecting, either go straight to the point, or I usually compliment a person’s work—either their product or an article they have written, depending on how I found them.

“If you are writing to somebody you already know, there are millions of other ways to word this, including,

  • How’s it going at X company?
  • Hope your last quarter turned out well.
  • Just wanted to follow up quickly since we last spoke.
  • Loved your last article on X topic.

“And countless others, depending on the relationship you’ve already established with them.”
—Hung Nguyen, Marketing & Customer Satisfaction Manager, Smallpdf

Just a friendly reminder

The one phrase that really bugs me is when people say, ‘Just a friendly reminder.’ It can really come off as condescending since it is just a non-confrontational way to ask for something that’s late. Everyone secretly hates ‘friendly reminder’ emails. A better way to communicate this would be to send a direct reminder, not an overly friendly one with a soft undertone.
—Brian Meiggs, Founder, My Millennial Guide

Create synergy

“The phrase that we need to ‘create synergy’ is so overused! You can’t say it and expect it to happen. It’s like saying we should all get along and work hard for each other. The reality is most teams are looking out for their own interests.”
—Corey Vandenberg, Mortgage Consultant, Platinum Home Mortgage

Be disruptive

“Disruptive: It’s so ubiquitous in marketing speak that no one cares about what’s genuinely disruptive! It’s marketing’s ‘boy who cried wolf.’ By definition, disruptive invokes a radical change—normally beyond an industry and affecting everyday life for people outside the industry. The third iteration of your marketing software barely ‘disrupts’ your own market, let alone the average person on the street. If you say everything is special, no one will care when you might finally have something worth talking about.

“Stop using ‘disruptive’ and instead opt for showing potential customers the benefits of buying your product or service. Showing people how your product solves their problems with actionable language answers their questions more effectively than tooting your own disruptive horn. Let other people or industry experts label your product disruptive before you ever think about it. Focus on solving your customers’ problems, creating excellent solutions, and showing why people should look to your company for answers.”
—Matt Garrepy, Chief Digital Officer, DigitalUS

Touch base

“I absolutely despite phrases like ‘touch base,’ ‘reach out,’ or ‘get in touch.’ We have a perfectly good word in English—contact—that captures the same precise meaning without requiring cliched jargon.”
—Zack Gallinger, President, Talent Hero Media

“This is just such a vague statement, and it often leaves me wondering if a client is actually interested in my services or if they are trying to blow me off. I would much prefer that professional contacts be clear and straightforward about their intentions. Saying something such as, ‘My assistant will call you to schedule another meeting next week’ or ‘It’s just not the right direction for my company at this time’ lets me understand what the client means and prevents me from expending unnecessary effort.”
—Nate Masterson, CEO, Maple Holistics

“When someone says, ‘Let’s touch base in three months,’ it’s not actionable because you don’t know who is going to reach out and there’s no actual base to touch. For a better outcome, you should say ‘I’ll follow up with you’ or ‘I’ll call you.’ This way both parties know who is responsible for making contact and you can nail down an actual time this will happen.”
—Vladimir Gendelman, Founder and CEO, Company Folders

Move the needle

” I think everyone in business has used this cliché at one time or another, but I find it valueless. It’s an analogy simply meaning to make a noticeable difference.

“And although this is something every business aims to do within their industry, I think it actually hurts a company—saying over and over again that a business needs to ‘move the needle’ doesn’t accomplish anything. Rather, what businesses should be doing is explaining how they want to improve and what they want to work on.

“Instead of spouting off this cliché, make a list of actionable items for your business and each of its departments. Brainstorm your company’s weaknesses and come up with a strategy to improve on them. This will ensure you business will no longer be caught up in the problem and will be working to come up with a solution.”
—McCall Robison, Content Marketing Strategist, Best Company

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Think outside the box

“‘We need to think outside the box’ is incredibly over used to the point it almost has no meaning anymore. What people should be saying is what are some other ways we can think of solving this problem that may not be the obvious solution.”
James Green, Founder and CEO, OfferToClose.com

A team of rock stars

“It drives me nuts when companies refer to all of their employees as rock stars. They’ll say something like, ‘We only hire rock stars,’ or they’ll advertise an open position: ‘Looking for a rock star salesperson.’ Not every employee is going to be a rock star, nor do they need to be. It is more important that a company hire dedicated and hardworking individuals who put the company first, not someone who has such high confidence that they constantly view themselves as being the best, despite the company they work for.”
—Evan Roberts, Co-Founder, Dependable Homebuyers

Growth hacking

“The cliché that drives me crazy is when people say that we need to implement growth hacking as though it is a brand new silver bullet. Growth hacking is simply marketing. Instead of using this term say, “I think we should invest more resources into marketing with the goal of acquiring customers in the short term.” When people use the term ‘growth hacking,’ I just think of reckless spending on marketing, without a clear plan to accurately determine ROI.”
—Jeff Miller, Real Estate Agent, AE Home Group

The market wasn’t ready

“The most overused business cliché, in my view is ‘The market wasn’t ready’ or ‘The customers didn’t understand the true value of our product/service.” While it may be true in some unique cases, chances are you are blaming your customers for your inability to really alleviate their pain and/or market your product/service better. A better way to communicate your failure (even if the market REALLY wasn’t ready or the customers didn’t understand your product’s value) would be to say, ‘We didn’t do a good job of communicating the true value of our product/service.’
It’s smart business to NOT to blame your customer or target audience for your failure.”
—Brett Helling, CEO, Ridester.com


“One of my biggest pet peeves in business communication is the word ‘utilize.’ All it means is to make good use of or to use for an unintended purpose, but it’s often just used as a pedantic spin on “use.” Instead of obscuring your meaning with ‘We’ll need to utilize the conference room starting at 3 o’clock,’ just say use. If you want to emphasize that something is being used well, or for an unintended use, just say that.”
—Joe Goldstein, Director of SEO and Operations, Contractor Calls

Put a pin in that

“What are we putting a pin in? Are we putting some darts in a blouse for a better fit? Are we throwing a fistful of pasta at the wall and then pinning our favorite bits that stuck? Where are you getting these pins, anyway?! In my experience, this phrase is used as a stalling tactic, often to put off simply admitting that you don’t know the immediate answer. Instead, why not acknowledge this contribution to discourse and promise to follow up. It sounds much better to say: ‘Excellent point, Sandy. I’ll be looking into that for you,’ rather than: ‘But, Sandy, for now, let’s put a pin in that.’”
—Allison Huntley, Real Estate Salesperson, Triplemint

Bring your “A” game

“Instead of implying someone may show up and not be engaged, emphasize the importance of a successful outcome.”
—Richard Pummell, Human Resources Lead, Develop Intelligence

If you find yourself succumbing to one of these business clichés, stop and think: Is there a better way to communicate this? Chances are, the answer is always yes.

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About the Author

Post by: Rachel Fausnaught

Rachel Fausnaught is the Corporate Communications Specialist for PrimePay. Before starting her career in the marketing world, she worked for a local TV news station, writing for the website and handling the station’s social media platforms. A creative writer at heart, Rachel loves to insert her style into the copy she creates.

Company: PrimePay
Website: www.primepay.com
Connect with me on Twitter.

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