• Write all of your communication using 8-10th grade reading level. College graduates read at about the 10th grade level, which is the reading level of Time Magazine or the New York Times.

• Make it a point to tell people you don’t understand what they just said. Make them translate their buzzwords into English. Believe me, no one will think you are the dumb one. They will applaud you for having the guts to ask—they didn’t understand either.

• Make use of the Clio award-winning software called Bullfighter to improve your written communication.

• Adopt the practice of playing “Buzzword Bingo” in all of your meetings—particularly those with consultants present. This helps reduce Bullspeak.

• Try to eliminate acronyms from your vocabulary.

• Keep a list of idiotic phrases and words, such as “leading edge,” “core competency,” “value proposition,” “employee engagement,” “mission critical” and “centers of excellence” (see any writing by Scott Adams or George Carlin for additional examples), and rid them from your vocabulary.

• Hire people who can speak in plain English and encourage this from your employees.

• Make it a point to replace the words and phrases below with simpler terms:



Action Item.....Task


Best in Class/Breed.....Best


Burning Platform.....Problem

Change Agent.....Consultant

Core Competency.....Capability

Drill Down.....Analyze


Full Plate.....Busy



Intellectual Capital.....Knowledge

Knowledge Base.....Knowledge

Mission Critical.....Important

Out of Pocket.....Unavailable

Outside the Box.....New/Different

Paradigm Shift.....Different

Reach Out.....Contact

Soup to Nuts.....Complete

Thought Leader.....Expert

Touch Base.....Tell

Value Proposition.....Proposal

World Class.....Best


Mark Graham Brown has 33 years of experience helping organizations measure and improve performance. He is the author of many books, including his latest: Killer Analytics: Top 20 Metrics Missing From Your Balance Sheet (Wiley, 2013).