Nixed: Entrepreneurs Share The Jargon Words They Can't Stand

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Every industry has its jargon, and for an outsider looking in it can seem like gibberish. The onus is on you to minimize the jargon to avoid confusing your customers. In business, you have to simplify everything for the client’s sake - without insulting their intelligence. Save the jargon for the people who understand it, because a client who comes across jargon they don’t understand will move on to the next person.

Some people use jargon to come across as smart, which is a waste of time because you end up losing your client’s interest. A budding entrepreneur looking for an investor should stay away from it. Your investor may not necessarily be in your industry, and just wants to invest in a start-up that has a good return on investment. Trying to impress them with jargon will make you come across as though you can’t communicate on different levels, which is not likely to enamour them to you.

There are several words some entrepreneurs just can’t stand because they tend to complicate things for their clients, their colleagues and ultimately themselves.


This phrase comes out sounding haughty. The implication is that only the top guns in organizations add value. It may sound like a good thing to say, but it leaves a bad taste in other people’s mouths.

Core competency

This expression is very common, and refers to a person or organization’s strength that sets it apart from everyone else. The phrase has become overused, and confuses people who aren’t familiar with business jargon.

Buy in

It literally means to buy shares in a venture where there are other shareholders. It also means to go along with a proposal, or to accept an idea that has been floated. There are many ways you can get this message across without sounding cliché.

Move the needle

This means to make a change to a degree that is worth noticing. This could be used in the context of cash flow generation. If something does not move the needle it means it’s not good enough. This may be clear to you and other players in the industry, but a client will be lost. Simplicity wins every time.

Lots of moving parts

This means a business has a lot of departments or components that need to be managed. If you are an entrepreneur sourcing for investor funds, stay away from this phrase. It could imply that your business is disorganized and hard to manage, and nobody wants that.


This means the capability of a business to handle growth. The first impression to one who is unfamiliar with this jargon is scaling a rock face! Your customers will try to understand these phrases in the best way they know how. If it does not make sense from the word go, they will move on, and you will have lost their attention.

Ducks in a row

The original idiom means to be prepared for something you expect to happen. In business, it means much the same - to be prepared via good planning. The phrase originated from the old days when you had to set the pins yourself. Some of this jargon is just awful in its references, and business people should refrain from using it.

Gain traction

To gain traction means to get a grip of something, or to get a foothold. It is used to mean that a business is becoming popular, thus gaining a foothold in the market. Again, it makes no sense to use big words when you can just be simple and direct.

On the cards

This one is very widely used. It means that something is unavoidable or inevitable. While some of this slang is generally well known, it is still unwise to use it in business. Some jargon is too cliché and mundane. As an entrepreneur, you want to come across as original and innovative, so use direct and simple words to get your message across in a powerful way.

We are all gifted differently and if words are not your forte, you can outsource such a task. You might want to create a brochure that gets your message out there. You can always outsource a task of this nature to the many quality writers at

Jockey for position

This means to try and move your business into a better position than that of your competitor. Using this kind of jargon while dealing with your clients will probably end up pushing them to the very place you don’t want them to go - your competition. The client will appreciate a forthright and clear definition of what your business offers. Going all out using big words meant to impress will have the exact opposite effect.

Ninth inning

Ninth inning means the last minute, also known as “the eleventh hour”. Just because you are well versed in baseball lingo, do not assume your clients are too. Not everyone will fill in the blanks like you assume. Be clear and concise so the customer does not leave feeling even more bewildered than before. Let this be an inside term you use with your peers in the industry. Leave the client out of it.

Passes the smell test

This phrase means to refer to something that is morally acceptable, but it’s a remarkably crude-sounding manner of saying it. Keep the communication line between you and your customer clear. There should never be any doubt as to what you mean. In some instances, you may get sued for misrepresentation, all because you used jargon the client mistook for something different. There are very real legal implications in attempting to bamboozle a client to make yourself sound like you know what you’re doing.


This one is known almost the world over. It means congratulations, or well done. Stay away from it. It is outdated and inappropriate for formal business dealings. Can you honestly see yourself signing a multi-million-dollar deal, and saying “kudos”? Keep away from such jargon, as it is very unprofessional.

Herding cats

What does herding cats have to do with business? The average customer with no idea what this jargon means may dismiss you as a joker. This phrase means to try and manage people who don’t want to be managed.

Low-hanging fruit

This is jargon for goals that are easily attainable with little effort. Again, why not use clear, concise language that the client will understand?

Think outside the box

This phrase is tired. It has been used and re-used until it has become stale. It means to think in ways other than the conventional, or come up with new solutions to problems. There are very many ways to express the sentiment without using this old cliché.

Whitewater change

This is pure jargon very few would understand. It means a business environment that is unpredictable. An entrepreneur’s world is definitely unpredictable, but talking to an investor and using such phrases will lose their attention. Keep it simple and clear.

These are just a few of the jargon phrases used in the business world. As a newcomer to business, it can be daunting to walk into a meeting and you’ll probably leave feeling even more confused by all the jargon. Before you’re tempted to use any of it, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If it didn’t make sense to you when you first heard it, drop it.

Using big words does not earn you customers, nor respect or admiration. You will be avoided like the plague because no one can understand your concept. Sales pitches should be simple and to the point. Tell the customer what your services or products are in the simplest way possible.

The customer will want to choose your product knowing exactly what they are getting.  If you have a web page stuffed with jargon, people will simply click out. No one wants to spend time trying to decipher what you are trying to say. Competition is stiff, so they will just move on to a page that makes sense.

Any words you recognized? Check out the comments section! You are welcome to post any questions or comments, and we promise to respond in jargon-free language.

Publié 11 septembre, 2017


Entrepreneur & Creator

Nick is the Entrepreneur Correspondent for He is based in Sydney, NYC, & London. His life consists of frequent flyer points.

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