Lately, new lists of words to avoid when writing have popped up again on websites. While we agree with what’s on those lists — “literally,” “amazing,” “really,” “got” — some words remain consistently overlooked. Here are five more words or references often seen in business correspondence, reports and presentations to which you need to bid a not-so-fond farewell and welcome easy-to-consider alternatives.
1. Awesome: It’s bad enough that people overuse this word in everyday conversation to describe everything from a book or a pair of shoes to a boardroom presentation or a new business partnership. Don’t dumb down your language; you’ll think of better words in two seconds: “Insightful book.” “Cute shoes.” “Impressive presentation.” “Powerful partnership.”
2. State-of-the-Art: In a world where technology is out of date before most people even get their hands on it, does this phrase mean anything anymore? After all, its origins go all the way back to the early-19th century. What’s wrong with using more contemporary terms such as “advanced” or “progressive”?
3. Irregardless: This word does exist, and has since at least 1795. But we don’t live in the 18th century, and most modern dictionaries categorize “irregardless” as “incorrect” or “nonstandard.” The correct term is “regardless,” because adding the “ir-” prefix makes the word a double negative. And we all remember what elementary school teachers said about double negatives, don’t we?
4. Synergy: I’m guilty of this one, because I thought it made me sound more professional and desirable as a business partner. Now I realize using “synergy” probably painted me as a pretentious schmuck. I should have been clearer and more specific by opting for “collaboration,” “partnership,” “alliance” or simply “work together.” And so should you.
5. Any reference to cult TV shows such as Breaking Bad and Portlandia: Some of us — and probably many of your colleagues — have never seen those shows and therefore have no idea what you’re talking about. The only exemption? Seinfeld, of course.
What words have you bid “bon voyage”?