Words Can Make Me Cringe

jargonThere are some words in the English language that are like nails on a chalkboard to me.  I’m particularly sensitive to business-related jargon.  Why?  Because I always think if a person is hiding behind a bunch of jargon, buzz words and corporate rhetoric, they’re undoubtedly trying to cover up their lack of real knowledge on the subject at hand.  Whether or not that’s true is up for debate, but I much prefer get-to-the-point, give-it-to-me-straight language over jargon-heavy fluff.

So now that I got that off my chest, you’re probably wondering what my point is.  It’s simple.  While I’ll gladly admit there is a time and place for jargon and buzz words, I find writing and messages to be far more powerful when they’re devoid of filler words.  Of course, fiction writing falls into another category entirely, but most nonfiction writing of any kind (books, articles, speeches, marketing copy, business reports, blogs, and so on) are typically stronger when they’re tighter.

So what words make me cringe?   Hmmm…  I’ll share a few words from the business world (since I do a lot of business-related writing) that really annoy me and one non-business word that just makes me cringe:

  1. Grassroots
  2. Continuum
  3. Paradigm
  4. Synergy
  5. Proboscis

I know I’m not alone in reacting so strongly to specific words.  I had a friend in high school who used to cringe whenever she heard the word nurture.  I once worked for a Sr. VP who referred to brainstorming meetings as Ideation Sessions.  He didn’t care that ideation isn’t even a real word.  It drove me crazy!

It’s amazing how certain words can actually cause physical reactions in people.  While writers certainly can’t predict those reactions among individual audience members, it is safe to assume that reducing jargon and overused words and phrases can make your writing more effective.

What do you think?  What words make you cringe?  Leave a comment and share your cringe-worthy words no matter how irrational the reasons behind your disdain might be.

Image: stock.xchng


19 responses
  1. Imogen Avatar

    Please let’s not forget ‘actioning’ – the beginning of a new era in which nouns become verbs. Sigh

  2. Susan Gunelius Avatar

    Imogen, Great example! I completely agree with you — the trend of turning nouns into verbs certainly does make me cringe sometimes!

  3. Lucinda Watrous Avatar

    “Irregardless.” UGH! Apparently it’s in dictionaries now, but it’s my understanding that the -less indicates without, as does -ir, so ladies and gentlemen, we have a double negative.

  4. becky Avatar

    “Lucrative” – it has been so overused it just makes me cringe.

  5. Tricia Avatar

    I was going to say irregardless as well, but Lucinda beat me to it! Great minds…

    I also hate it when people pepper their sentences with curse words. It seems both lazy and vulgar to me.

  6. BrownEyed Avatar

    Yes, Becky said it for me, it is “lucrative” from my side as well. How typical that word! But honestly, I’ve been more bugged since my last project involved loads of counts for the very word.


  7. J. Michael Rivera Avatar
    J. Michael Rivera

    A few annoying words from my days as a city hall reporter: “signage,” “foodstuffs,” and “viable.” A regional specialty here in the Central Valley is the use of “training” by itself without an adjective. “We’re having a training on the new data entry software Monday afternoon.” “It was an excellent training.” I don’t know why it bugs me so much, but it does!

  8. Noemi Avatar

    “Irregardless” is in the dictionary now? Whoa!
    How about “advices” as in: She gives me a lot of advices.

  9. Linda Rhinehart Neas Avatar

    Great post! My teeth go on edge every time I hear “ironical!” As in, “It was really ironical that this happened.” Yikes! The correct word is “ironic”… no need for the “al”.

    Buzzwords that have just gotten annoying are: empowerment, immersion, and proactive.

    Thanks for the opportunity to vent!

  10. Laura Avatar

    In case you didn’t know, Northern Michigan University sponsors an annual Unicorn Hunters award that recognizes overused and misused words. A few years ago, one of my pet peeves was so honored:

    “Swipe” as is what you do with your card at the checkout. (Specifically, I was always told to swipe means to steal so is the store encouraging theft? LOL. It could also mean a long, glancing blow: I don’t see where beating my card would do any good. LOL).

    I also hate:
    think outside the box
    nouns that are verbed and verbs that are nouned
    and most corporate/education speak.

  11. Kelly Phillips Avatar

    How about “reaching out” to someone to clarify a point because you have a “disconnect” in the communication flow? That drives me nuts. Completely overused, although it might only be prevalent in a telecom environment. Perhaps other industries are immune to the “disconnect.”

  12. KristenAC Avatar

    I agree; certain words can decrease the value of a writing piece. My pet peeve is the ever-increasing use of foul (or, what very recently was considered foul) language in non-fiction writing. (Fiction writing excluded) I’m bothered by the dropping of an f-bomb or any variation of the A-word, including the popular, ‘kick-A’. To me, the use of these accents is much like sprinkling rat droppings on a cupcake.


  13. Ashley Avatar

    For me it’s the word “sheer”. My ex used to use that word several times a day. Mostly for the commonly used phrase, “For the sheer fact . . .” I had to tell him to stop and actually use other words. It made him look even more like dunce than he already was. Yes, I say he is a dunce. If you knew him, you’d say the same and then look at me and wonder why I ever married him. Long story. At least I don’t have to hear that god aweful word.

    Another word and I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with me, that it is very annoying, “whatever”. Or how about what teens are doing? Abbreviating everything and then actually talking like they text.

  14. Al Avatar

    ‘Copacetic’ is by far my least favorite word.

  15. Debbra Brouillette Avatar

    As a travel writer, I cringe when I read the overused word “verdant” in an article.

    I agree with a lot of the examples others have listed as well.

  16. Brandon Nelson Avatar

    I come from the natural foods industry, and I can’t stand how everyone uses the word “organic” now to describe people around them, performances, looks, speeches, and on and on…

    I think it just sounds cool to say; it makes people feel artistic. Everything inspirational is so OrGanic.

  17. Janet Money Avatar
    Janet Money

    Yes, the newish verb “to reach out” is horrible, and usually “contact” will do just as well. My own biggest cringe is reserved for “granular” and its derivatives. Then there is the classic Dilbert strip of Oct. 12, 2001:
    Pointy-headed Boss: “Anne, I’m going to task you with a deliverable.”
    Anne L. Retentive: “GAAA!!! Task is not a verb!! My world is falling apart.”
    Boss (aside): “Tomorrow I’ll ask her to timeline her project.”

  18. Kathy Avatar

    In conversation, the one that gets me (though there are many!) is “whenever,” when what the speaker means is “when.” “So whenever I picked up my daughter from school, the principal was sitting in the front office.” That means that the principal was sitting there EVERY TIME, not just that time.

    Another one is “whatnot.” People use it as though they are saying, “whatever.” A whatnot is an object, or a bunch of objects, you either can’t think of the name of or you can’t be bothered to. “My grandma’s shelves are filled with ceramic whatnots.” But what I hear is “We have to get all the supplies and whatnot.”

    But as a writer in the religious arena, the one that I hate the most is “spirituality.” It’s a non-threatening (because it’s meaningless) word that people use instead of more direct (and therefore offensive) words such as theology, morality, world view, discipline, prayer, practice, or other more well-defined word. “Spirituality” means whatever you want it to mean…and therefore means nothing.

  19. I'm Seventeen Avatar
    I’m Seventeen

    I hate soo many wordsI whyyyy?
    a list:
    gahh this just sounds like a list of dirty words but i promise its not. Kiss is the worst. Like i physically (visibly) cringe when people say it and i go out of my way to not have to say it. Why? there’s nothing wrong with the actual act! (i just couldn’t bring ymsekf to type it again, i’m sorry) Why do i hate it so much?

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