Business World

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Blue sky thinking? The 10 business phrases most likely to make you scream

Lauren Davidson

Published 17/06/2016 | 14:27

Most people feel that business jargon is meaningless (Stock image)
Most people feel that business jargon is meaningless (Stock image)

The corporate world can be an impenetrable place even without the codewords that those on the inside abuse with abandon.

  • Go To

A new survey of 2,000 business travellers has revealed the 10 most hated items of "management speak", the jargon that invades boardrooms, marketing meetings and professional emails.

To "touch base offline" topped the list, angering those who preferred to say "let's meet and talk", according to Jargon Buster, a new book curated by language expert Adam Jacot de Boinod for Amba Hotels.

"Blue sky thinking", meaning creative ideas that are not constrained by preconceptions - similar to "thinking outside the box", which ranked fifth on the list - and "to punch a puppy" rounded out the top three.

The canine catchphrase, which means to do something unpleasant that is good for the business, was more offensive to women than to men, irritating 29pc and 20pc of respondents respectively.

"It was fascinating to see the emotional response that business travellers have to certain terms or phrases," said Goldsmiths University behavioural expert Patrick Fagan.

"While some feel repelled by certain words, and attracted to others, the majority of business travellers feel that many of the buzzwords have no concrete or effective meaning."

Other repeat offenders not included in Jargon Buster's top 10 include "to circle back", to "action" something and to "reach out".

Research by the Institute of Leadership and Management has found that a quarter of workers find corporate jargon to be a "pointless irritation".


Chrissie Mahler, founder of the Plain English Campaign, has called management speak "downright dangerous" and criticised it of "acting as a barrier to procuring new business".

Last year, Britain's Financial Conduct Authority warned firms in the City to avoid small print packed with complicated technical language, which can confuse clients and lead to unnecessary complaints.

"Corporate jargon needs refreshing and we are on a mission to shake up the standard business language that so many of us come across in our everyday lives," said Colin Roy, chief marketing officer at GLH Hotels, the London-based subsidiary of GuocoLeisure Group that owns Amba Hotels.

1) Touch base offline (let's meet and talk)

2) Blue-sky thinking (creative ideas free from practical constraints)

3) Punch a puppy (do something detestable but good for the business)

4) Thought shower (to come up with several ideas)

5) Thinking outside the box (thinking creatively and innovatively)

6) It's on my radar (I'm aware of it)

7) Close of play (the end of the day)

8) Singing from the same hymn sheet (all in agreement)

9) Peel the onion (to examine a problem in detail)

10) To wash its own face (to justify or pay for itself)

Online Editors

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in Business