12 Most Supercilious Corpspeak Terms

12 Most Supercilious Corpspeak Terms

If you have sat through even a few business meetings in your professional life, you have heard it: the speaker who pads their speech with corpspeak.

Some people doodle when they are bored, I do tallies of corpspeak. I have been known to amass seven “leverages,” three “synergies,” an “actionable,” and a “non-harmonized” all in one two-hour meeting!

What leads speakers to force themselves to use more syllables than are necessary to get their point across? To use another corpspeak term, perhaps they see themselves as “Thought Leaders” and think this type of language bolsters that identity. Here are twelve of the worst offenders:

1. Synergy

Said by someone who wants people with complementary talents or resources to find a way to do something that would be impossible without working together. Translation: “You have something I need. I have something you need. Let’s make something great together.”

2. Leverage

Said by someone who wants to use something that has already been done, bought, or said to move a project forward without having to start from scratch. Translation: “Joe already has is Project Management Certification. Let’s take advantage of that instead of paying for someone else to get theirs.”

3. Pedagogy

Said by someone in the field of education who has chosen to use four syllables when two will do: teaching. Translation: “Teaching educates students.”

4. Deep dive

A legitimate IT term that means to immerse a group quickly into a topic in order to brainstorm an idea or solve a problem. But as a layperson in meetings where the term is used, it always makes me giggle a tiny bit and lose track of my corpspeak tick marks. Translation: “Let’s all think quickly and rapidly about this concept so we can get some good ideas going.”

5. Scalable

Said by someone who wants the work that is done in Step One to be something that can be made bigger and easier again without recreating the wheel. Like deep dive, it is legit in IT also but the translation is: “We’re going to program this function for your ten users, but if the idea catches on and a million users want to do the same thing, it’ll be easy to do that.”

6. Ping

Said by someone who wants to communicate with someone else… quickly… electronically… without looking them in the eyes. There’s no translation, but if you really want to throw someone off, walk two doors down to their desk and look ’em in the eyes.

7. Actionable

Said by someone who is seriously hoping that what they wrote on paper will, in reality, work. Translation: “It will work.”

8. Mitigate

Said by someone who is facing a very lengthy Gantt chart or project plan and seriously hopes to prevent something from derailing progress. Translation: “Let’s make sure things don’t go wrong.”

9. Granularity

What the person taking the deep dive has to wade (swim?) through… a whole bunch of very specific details. Translation: “You will need to read 200 pages in that work plan to make sure that there is a plan to close the door when it gets cold outside.”

10. Seamless

Said in public programs where the goal is for fifteen different entities to make it look from the client’s end like they are one. Seamless doesn’t happen often. When it does, there’s a whole lot of hard work going on in the background. Translation: “It took five different entities with lengthy names to make your ‘one-stop’ application a reality. Five more will handle it before you get an answer.”

11. In the weeds

Where you get while you are dealing with granularity and on the verge of taking a deep dive. It is where you are threatened with losing sight of the main objective. Translation: “While you are re-writing a letter that no one will ever need to receive for two years, someone else is getting credibility points for saying, ‘let’s break this process down into manageable pieces. The weeds are a bad place to be unless you have a way out.’”

12. Robust

Means we want to keep the contract, we really really do. We have a plan. Translation: “Our plan/project/product is no lightweight.”

“Thought Leaders” like syllables; they like sounding like the next best thing. Me? I prefer someone who does lead with their thoughts but tells me about them in plain English.

Is there a particular corpspeak term that irritates you? Here are some tired old phrases. What plain English alternatives do you recommend?


Featured image courtesy of aussiegall licensed via Creative Commons.


Paula Kiger


Paula is a "wife of one, mom of two, friend of many." She works in administration for a non profit corporation and loves to write with her "big green pen" whenever the opportunity arises.

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