113 Phrases to Eliminate from Your Work Vocabulary

The problem with outdated phrases is they become less meaningful and more cliched over time. 

Words that fall into this category should be avoided as they can hinder our ability to connect and communicate with others.

This is particularly important in professional settings, such as client and work meetings and job interviews.

The last thing you want to do is say something that will put off the listener.

In this blog, I will cover:

  • A list of common outdated phrases in the workplace
  • Gendered language to avoid
  • Phrases that undermine authority
  • Insincere email phrases

And better alternatives for each one!

Outdated phrases and cliches in the workplace

Outdated phrases can be unprofessional or out-of-touch with modern workplace culture and norms. Using dated expressions may make you seem less credible or competent in the eyes of colleagues.

Overusing clichés or catchphrases can make your communication seem lazy or lacking original thought. It’s better to express yourself clearly and precisely.

Using fresh, contemporary language demonstrates that you are adaptable, self-aware and conscientious about how others perceive your words.

Here are ones to avoid and their replacement:

  1. Think outside the box > Consider new perspectives
  2. Low-hanging fruit > Accessible opportunities
  3. Synergy > Collaboration
  4. On the same page > In agreement
  5. Circle back > Revisit
  6. Touch base > Discuss briefly
  7. At the end of the day > Ultimately
  8. Move the needle > Make a significant impact
  9. Win-win situation > Mutually beneficial outcome
  10. Deep dive > Detailed analysis
  11. Take it offline > Discuss this later
  12. Push the envelope > Expand the boundaries
  13. Run it up the flagpole > Test an idea
  14. Let’s touch base > Let’s catch up
  15. Put a pin in it > Postpone
  16. Back to the drawing board > Start over
  17. On my radar > I’m aware of it
  18. Open the kimono > Share information transparently
  19. Par for the course > What’s expected
  20. Boots on the ground > People in the field
  21. Game-changer > A transformative idea or event
  22. Value add > Beneficial addition
  23. Silver bullet > Perfect solution
  24. New normal > Current standard
  25. Pivot > Change direction or strategy
  26. Bandwidth > Capacity to handle tasks
  27. 360-degree view > Comprehensive perspective
  28. Ecosystem > Network or environment
  29. Wheelhouse > Area of expertise
  30. Baked in > Included inherently
  31. Takeaway > Key point or idea
  32. Drill down > Examine in detail
  33. Scalable > Able to be expanded
  34. Best practice > Optimal approach
  35. Peel the onion > Examine in layers
  36. Leverage > Utilize effectively
  37. Optics > Perceptions
  38. Ping me > Contact me
  39. Close the loop > Conclude an issue
  40. Hard stop > Firm end time
  41. On your plate > Your responsibilities
  42. Go-to person > Expert or key contact
  43. Out of pocket > Unavailable
  44. Key takeaways > Important points
  45. Stake a claim > Assert a position
  46. Mission-critical > Essential
  47. Curate > Select or choose
  48. Ideate > Generate ideas or brainstorm
  49. Let’s circle the wagons > Let’s regroup or come together
  50. Bottleneck > Obstacle or delay

Gendered language to avoid

Gendered language often reinforces outdated stereotypes about gender roles and characteristics that have no place in a modern, inclusive workplace.

Gendered phrases can come across as unprofessional, diminishing credibility, especially when addressing mixed-gender groups.

Using gender-neutral language helps foster a sense of belonging and psychological safety for all employees, allowing them to contribute ideas without judgment.

Delete the following phrases from your vocabulary and use these instead:

  1. Chairman > Chair or Chairperson
  2. Businessman > Businessperson
  3. Manpower > Workforce or Staff
  4. Foreman > Supervisor
  5. Salesman > Sales representative
  6. Man-hour > Person-hour or Work-hour
  7. Mankind > Humanity or Humankind
  8. Manmade > Synthetic, artificial, or manufactured
  9. Spokesman > Spokesperson

Additionally, avoid traits implying masculine or feminine traits:

  1. Aggressive > Assertive
  2. Bossy > Decisive
  3. Emotional > Expressive, passionate
  4. Feisty > Energetic, spirited
  5. Pushy > Persistent, ambitious
  6. Sassy > Bold, confident
  7. Bubbly > Cheerful, lively
  8. Ditzy > Scatterbrained, absent-minded
  9. Hysterical > Overwhelmed, very upset
  10. Nagging > Persistent

Phrases that undermine authority

This category of phrases can convey a lack of confidence and self-belief and, in some instances, may sound dismissive and offensive. They shift away from the focus of your message and chip away at your credibility. 

Here are the ones you want to put on your no-no list.

  1. I just wanted to add > I would like to add
  2. Sorry if this is a bad idea > I propose
  3. I’m not sure, but > My understanding is
  4. Does that make sense? > Let me know if you need further clarification
  5. I might be wrong > Based on my analysis
  6. This might be a silly question > I have a question
  7. Just my two cents > I recommend
  8. Hopefully this works > I expect this will be effective
  9. I guess > I believe
  10. I’m no expert > My research suggests
  11. Sorry to bother you > Thank you for your time
  12. If you get a chance > When you are available
  13. Just trying to help > I am here to assist
  14. It’s only my opinion > Based on the data
  15. I’m still learning > I am currently studying
  16. If I could ask a stupid question > I have a question
  17. Just > (omit this word entirely)
  18. I’ll try > I will
  19. Sorry > Thank you (where an apology isn’t necessary, e.g., Sorry for the delay > Thank you for your patience)
  20. This is probably not what you want to hear > The analysis shows
  21. Frankly > I would like to point out
  22. To be honest > In my experience
  23. Like > For instance
  24. Basically > In essence

Outdated email phrases

Text-based communication is already tone-deaf, and certain phrases can make you seem cold and uninterested.

When it comes to email niceties, we often include them as a segue to the main point of the email. Sometimes, this makes us sound uninterested and cold.

But there are ways around it. Use these replacements to sound more genuine in an email:

  1. I hope this email finds you well > I hope your week is going well
  2. Please do not hesitate to contact me > Feel free to reach out anytime
  3. As per our conversation > Following our discussion
  4. I just wanted to follow up on > I’m reaching out to see about
  5. Sorry to bother you > Thank you for your time
  6. To whom it may concern > [Address the recipient by name, when possible]
  7. I am writing to inform you > I’m getting in touch to let you know
  8. Enclosed please find > I have attached
  9. Thank you in advance > Thank you for considering this
  10. It has come to our attention > We have noticed
  11. I would like to extend an invitation > I’m excited to invite you
  12. At your earliest convenience > When you have a moment
  13. Please find enclosed > I’ve included
  14. For your review > For your consideration
  15. I’m not sure if you heard about > Have you heard about
  16. Kindly > Please
  17. We are pleased to announce > We’re excited to share
  18. Feel free to > I encourage you to
  19. Thank you for your understanding > Thanks for your flexibility
  20. If you require any further information, please contact > If you need more info, feel free to reach out

These help your emails sound less scripted and robotic.

Wrapping up

There will always be cultural considerations to account for, but what’s certain is that the workplace is evolving. It’s our responsibility to use appropriate terminology that makes people feel valued and included.

The right words help us connect with people, be they clients, managers or colleagues. 

And it’s always worth supplementing your self-help practices with the support of an experienced public speaking coach who can provide you with more tailored guidance or enrol in an online public speaking short course.

Good luck! And if you want to hear more from me, you can find me on:

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