get the words “core competencies” off your resume

by Ask a Manager on June 26, 2013

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If you have a section on your resume called “core competencies,” please call it something else. You do not need that horrible piece of jargon on your resume, and its presence there instantly makes hiring managers’ eyes glaze over.

Call it a profile, call it a summary or highlights, I don’t care — but no one says “core competencies” in everyday conversation. Use plain language that makes you sound like a normal person, rather than like someone who got trapped in a really boring HR conference and never escaped.

{ 235 comments… read them below or add one }

Jubilance June 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm

My section highlighting my important skills is called “Summary of Qualifications”. I agree – core competencies is corporate speak and I’ve never actually heard someone say that before.

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Jazzy Red June 26, 2013 at 3:44 pm

They say it at my company. Jargon is very big here.

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Kara June 26, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I’m an HR major – I say it too. However, when writing resumes for myself and as a favor to others I usually title that section “Qualifications” or “Professional Qualifications.”

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Lily in NYC June 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Mine too! I cringe every time someone asks if I have “bandwith” to help with something.

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Jamie June 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Interesting – core competencies is exactly what they are though…I don’t think of it as corporate speak. As a matter of fact you’ll find the phrase in my ISO documents…which I wrote… :)

And that is the phrase we use in every conversation about hiring.

Although I do think my threshold for corporate speak tolerance is higher than most…actually, it may be my first language so you can’t go by me.

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AdAgencyChick June 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Hear, hear!

While we’re at it, can we please kill the use of the word “ask” as a noun? There’s already a word for that, and it is “request.” Drives me up a wall!

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Eric June 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Did you just make an ask there?

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KarenT June 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

LOL

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Jamie June 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I’ve never heard of that one – it’s awful.

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Cat June 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Ugh, this one has somehow taken over in my office in the last couple of months. It is killing me.

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Juni June 26, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Wait, wait, in the fundraising field, an “ask” is a real thing.

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Sarah June 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm

+1

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MM June 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm

+2

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Anonny June 26, 2013 at 4:05 pm

It’s real in sales as well.

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Kelly L. June 26, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Thus it makes people sound pushily “salesy” when they use it in other contexts too, which I think is a large part of why it’s annoying.

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Jessa June 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Exactly. Either it’s jargony or it makes people think of an “up,” in sales.

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CEMgr June 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

It’s rampant at my place of work, I don’t have any clear path to killing it. Marketing people are the biggest (ab)users.

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Kelly L. June 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Amen!

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Jazzy Red June 26, 2013 at 3:46 pm

How about “axe”? Can we say that? I know a lot of people who do.

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FD June 26, 2013 at 8:22 pm

If you sell to woodcutters, does that mean you’re going to make an ask for axes?

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Josh S June 26, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Every time I try to say that, I end up swearing unintentionally.

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Ellie H. June 26, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Oh man, if I could wipe that off the face of the planet. Also “gift”! The word is give!

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class factotum June 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Ellie, I think I love you. When did “gift” become a verb?

And no more “on-boarding,” please.

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Jubilance June 26, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Oh my company LOVES “onboarding”, they talk about that one all the time.

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Oxford Comma June 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm

OMG I hate this one. I am not on a cruise ship.

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Kelly O June 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Although pretending I’ve been on a cruise ship might not be that bad…

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Oxford Comma June 27, 2013 at 9:11 am

Only if I get to have cocktails with little umbrellas in them at my desk.

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Jazzy Red June 27, 2013 at 9:35 am

I’d give up using the Oxford commas for a vacation on a cruise ship!

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Oxford Comma June 27, 2013 at 11:44 am

+1

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Teresa June 26, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Yes! I always think of waterboarding.

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Windchime June 26, 2013 at 10:53 pm

What the heck does “onboarding” even mean? People use it in the context of new employees……could we just say “orientation” or “training” if that’s what it means?

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Oxford Comma June 27, 2013 at 9:16 am

I asked this one of our HR person who is enamoured of the term and got back a kind of gobbledygook answer that made very little sense. I honestly think it’s just a management lite thing where they feel if they change the word we’ll all feel enthused.

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Bee June 27, 2013 at 2:23 pm

We use “onboarding” as a separate thing from “orientation” or “training” – orientation is the initial meeting with HR, wherein general policies are reviewed and paperwork is completed, where as onboarding is the entire process of getting a new employee ‘on-board’ with the company. Orientation, job training and/or shadowing, skills training, meetings with the higher-ups, etc., are all a part of onboarding.

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PJ June 27, 2013 at 2:53 pm

“…where they feel if they change the word we’ll all feel enthused.”

I remember working for a company whose management thought we would all feel better if the company “right-sized” itself rather than laid people off.

I imagined them saying in the executive meeting, “If we use that term, maybe they won’t notice they’re now unemployed.”

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Lalaith June 26, 2013 at 3:59 pm

And “guesstimate”, which has been running around my office lately. An estimate *is* a guess, people. An educated guess, sure (hopefully), but you are not adding any meaning with this particular portmanteau.

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Sunshine DC June 26, 2013 at 7:26 pm

GIFT is the norm in perhaps all non-USA English speaking British Commonwealth countries and former colonies—when something given is a GIFT.

If you ask me to pass the salt at the dinner table, I GIVE it to you.

If its your birthday and I buy you a new computer, I GIFT it to you.

This is absolutely correct, original English – just not common in American English.

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fposte June 26, 2013 at 7:40 pm

No, it’s a recent development there as well for material goods–”give” goes back to Anglo-Saxon and turns up in all the usual places like Shakespeare. There is a smaller, more recent (mid-millennium) tradition of “gift” as a verb, but that’s more poetic/abstract (think “gifted child” kind of use).

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E June 27, 2013 at 2:26 am

I grew up in one non-US Anglophone country, got a lot of my media from a second non-US Anglophone country, and emigrated to a third non-US Anglophone country.

The only instance where I have ever heard ‘gift’ used as a verb was in relation to tax law.

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J.B. June 26, 2013 at 4:12 pm

And “metric” as a verb! It is a noun, and “measure” is a perfectly good verb. In fact there are lots of verbs you could use there that are actually verbs!

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Natalie June 26, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Wait, people are doing that now?

* headdesk *

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Colette June 26, 2013 at 4:28 pm

And impactful. Man, I hate that … um, word?

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Emma June 26, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Can we stop using “spend” as a noun? We have a perfectly good noun for the concept and it’s called expenditure. Don’t get me started on the phrase “talk about this offline.” You should only be using that when you are chatting over IM or e-mail!

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Amy June 27, 2013 at 4:22 am

Also, impact as a verb. As in, “I really hope that the new core competencies will impact our bottom line.” Impact is a noun, people!

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Emma June 27, 2013 at 8:47 am

When I interned in the non-profit world, they looooooved using the term “impactful.” It drove me up the wall.

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Vicki June 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Along with “socialize” when applied to non-humans.

as in “socialize a Power Point Document”.

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Ellie H. June 26, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I actually have no idea what this one means (fortunately?).

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Cathy June 26, 2013 at 6:49 pm

“Share” or “communicate” are the appropriate replacements for “socialize”.

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fposte June 26, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Shoot. I seriously thought it was a funny turn of phrase for making a crap PowerPoint into something that could actually be used with humans.

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Ellie H. June 27, 2013 at 11:41 am

Me too!

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RG June 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm

But, that’s when you teach it to interact with other Power Points, right? Because you’ll eventually need to breed more Power Points, right?

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Natalie June 26, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Hopefully you’ve had your Power Points spayed or neutered, but you still need to socialize them so they will behave well around others and not bite.

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FD June 26, 2013 at 8:33 pm

And remember to be a responsible Office owner, and clean up after your PowerPoint. No one wants to step in someone else’s slides!

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Natalie June 26, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Yeah, gross. It’s hard to get slides out of your shoes.

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Chinook June 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm

How do you socialize a document? Do you take it to other presentations to introduce it to other documents so it will play nicely in the E: (like you do with dogs at a dog park)?

And what does anti-social document behaviour look like?

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Nichole June 26, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Antisocial documents use text speak, un-words, and gratuitous, poorly placed semicolons. Example: “Will conversate w/you b4 the mtg; on Tuesday.”

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Jazzy Red June 27, 2013 at 9:40 am

Really? “Conversate” instead of “talk”?

Un-flippin’-believable.

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Emma June 27, 2013 at 10:03 am

How about independency? I worked with someone who was a fan of that word. I’m no linguist, but is there a term for over-modifying a word (or for the tendency to over modify) like that? Independency, conversate, etc.?

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Emma June 27, 2013 at 10:07 am

Shows me…I see now that independency IS a word…but only in specific situations (i.e., talking about a self-governing state). So unless you’re a sovereign entity, it’s technically incorrect to talk about your “independency.”

Much like commentate, which is a word…but really should only apply to folks describing the play-by-play of a sports game. We have a shorter, nicer word for what you’re trying to do and that’s “comment.”

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Christina June 27, 2013 at 11:35 am

Was that person you were working with performing in the musical 1776?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqAdlkJDt7k

Nichole June 27, 2013 at 12:53 pm

It always makes me cringe a little. It takes everything I have not to say “you mean converse.” Which is still overkill, but at least it’s technically correct. I try not to be that guy (in most situations my grammar Nazi tendencies are my hang up, not theirs), but that one drives me up the wall.

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kasey June 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm

“socialize a Power Point Document”
no, waah? buy the ppt a drink, take it dancing?

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SCW June 26, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Except dogs, they should be socialized or they can be unpredictable!

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Lily in NYC June 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm

WHAT? That is the worst one I’ve ever heard.

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just laura June 26, 2013 at 4:36 pm

This thread of replies should start the next open thread– annoying non-words. Use in a sentence for extra points!

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Anonymous June 26, 2013 at 5:47 pm

I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate that one. I’ve been hearing it from my VP for years.

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twentymilehike June 26, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Since we are all venting our offices’ uses of annoying words, can someone please ask everyone I work with to stop saying “relook?” It’s not an actual word and it sounds so unprofessional. It makes me feel like I’m in junior high. I wish they’d just say, “I need to look at it again.” You can’t just add “re-” to the beginning of any random word, right?

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ThursdaysGeek June 26, 2013 at 7:34 pm

And I don’t dialog with you, I talk or speak with you. Quit verbing nouns, please?

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Natalie June 26, 2013 at 9:10 pm

In the words of Bucky from Get Fuzzy, you can wordify anything if you just verb it.

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RubyJackson June 26, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Nor do I ‘conversate.’

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Kacie June 26, 2013 at 10:34 pm

One of my employees uses dialog as a verb on a regular basis. I think it must have been common in his last organization, he was there a long time. He’s an outstanding employee, so just have to suck that one up and not cringe when he says it.

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Windchime June 26, 2013 at 10:51 pm

We had a bunch of contractors last year, and this was big with them…..”My ask would be this: (blah blah blah)”. I was making a list of Contractor Jargon, and “ask” was high on my list.

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Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I’ve been dealing with “interpretator” quite a lot recently. As in, “We have a deaf customer. Should I schedule an interpretator?”

It makes me die a little every time I hear it.

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Ash June 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm

As long as I can keep my “Synergy” and “Bizmeth” sections, then I’m ok.

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PJ June 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Bizmeth — isn’t that something you take for diarrhea?

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fposte June 26, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Or the name of Walter White’s corporation.

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RG June 26, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Ha – as a play on the element Bismuth, right? But it’s the business of meth….

Chemists do love their puns.

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Rob Aught June 26, 2013 at 3:46 pm

You can take my paradigms when you pry them from my cold dead hands.

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Yup June 26, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Paradigm and hegemony make me fist-clenchingly, jaw-grindingly furious. I think it’s a Pavlovian response from a really annoying university professor.

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Natalie June 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm

“Hegemony” and “agency” were the buzzwords du jour at my college. I have used up my lifetime allotment of hearing or saying either of those words.

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FD June 26, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Paradigm has a useful meaning though, useful for several contexts and I’ve never come up with another word that means quite the same thing.

It is overused and misused though.

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khrystyne June 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Oh brother, can you paradigm… <>

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Emma June 26, 2013 at 8:40 pm

How about problematize? *headdesk*

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Natalie June 26, 2013 at 9:11 pm

My company was briefly fond of “bucketize”, which means put in buckets… otherwise known as categorize! Jags.

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Emma June 27, 2013 at 8:45 am

I don’t know if I would have been able to control myself in that situation. I would have started saying “bouquet-ize,” a la “Keeping Up Appearances,” to highlight the absurdity of the word.

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Kelly O June 27, 2013 at 11:51 am

I should have known there were other Keeping Up Appearances fans in the AAM comments.

If you “bucketize” something, do you get a swimming pool, sauna, and room for a pony?

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Emma June 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm

I think it might involve fine china, breaking out the fancy cookies, and using a framing square to ensure your stamp aligns perfectly with both edges of the envelope.

But I will bucketize all my company wants for a pool and a pony.

Mike C. June 26, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Synergy is one I first encountered when dealing with genetic studies, so it’s perfectly acceptable.

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fposte June 26, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Then you’ll understand my distaste for “epistatic” used non-genetically.

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Mike C. June 27, 2013 at 12:16 am

Ouch, that’s pretty bad.

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Chinook June 27, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Wait – I think Synergy is an actual company name in the oilfield business, so I can’t stop using it.

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Anonymous June 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm

But, by stating my core competencies, I can utilize my resume to give a demonstration of my out-of-the-box thinking vis-à-vis monetizing the paradigm.

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The Editor June 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm

And there’s my biggest pet peeve word…. “utilize.” “Use” is such a more useful word, and it’s only one syllable. Think of the efficiencies!

And yes, I know your response was tongue-in-cheek. Very well done, by the way, but you forgot to mention how you would use your skills to dialog/interface while also cross-pollinating.

Barf….

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Leslie Yep June 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm

You might consider setting some goals around this.

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Kelly O June 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

As long as you’re keeping your seat at the table, at the end of the day – no harm, no foul.

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anon o June 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I hate utilize too! A former co-worker of mine used to joke with me about it – “Utilize the Force, Luke!”

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The Editor June 26, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Oh man… That’s funny! I will never be able to watch Star Wars the same….

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Thomas June 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Yes, but have you leveraged synergies?

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Vicki June 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm

We need an Open Thread on Corporate Speak, Jargon, and Other BaffleGab.

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J.B. June 26, 2013 at 4:13 pm

:)

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Mike C. June 26, 2013 at 5:27 pm

BINGO

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Katie the Fed June 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm

actually in the government it’s still very much used.

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Ask a Manager June 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Exactly! I rest my case!

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Katie the Fed June 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

hahaha. Well played. We’re like the hotmail of business practices.

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Vicki June 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm

{{giggle}}

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De Minimis June 26, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Yep…at my agency I think we have to specifically address our core competencies in our yearly evaluations.

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Victoria Nonprofit June 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I don’t use this, but my organization does. For each role we have defined core competencies; these are what we are measured against during performance reviews (+ results, of course).

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Kacie June 26, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Right, I’ve used them as a term to describe the skills I expect you to have in a specific role. And that you’ve received adequate training to perform them. It seems odd to me that an individual would have core competencies, though. Against whose measure?

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Marmite June 26, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Interesting, a lot of job descriptions have person specifications referring to “core competencies” or “required competencies”. I have that section simply titled “skills” on my CV, but given that job descriptions reference competencies so much I can see why people would refer to it that way on their CV too.

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TheSnarkyB June 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Aaand, she’s back! I’ve felt a noticeable lack of the Alison core, and the sass is back!! :)

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Ask a Manager June 26, 2013 at 3:37 pm

But yesterday I called someone a giant d-bag!

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bob June 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm

And deservedly so!

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Mike C. June 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Seriously.

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Kara June 26, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Yep – that was awesome.

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MovingRightAlong June 27, 2013 at 1:49 am

An argument could be made that you pulled your punch there.

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TheSnarkyB June 27, 2013 at 9:46 pm

YES!!! Missed that one! (Busy week)
What was that thing about name calling….?

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Samantha June 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I actually used “core competency” in a conversation today. I find it uniquely descriptive. Am I a giant d-bag?? haha

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Anonymous June 26, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I say ‘usual suspects’ on mine after industry tools and general marketing tools for MS Word, etc

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Sascha June 26, 2013 at 4:08 pm

I’ve been working in universities for the past 7 years, so “core competencies” makes me think of the set of general education class a student needs to graduate. So when I first saw this I thought, why is someone listing their general ed classes on their resume?

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RB June 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Can I add another?

Out of pocket. Please, I hate this. Just say you are going to be unavailable.

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SarahJ June 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I have a friend how uses this phrase all the time and it makes no sense. Sometimes it means “available only by email”, others it’s just code for “I’ll get back to you whenever I feel like it”.

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KarenT June 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I’ve never heard that one

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Jamie June 26, 2013 at 4:31 pm

That must be regional. I’ve always heard that as slang for “out of line.” i.e. – “Did she get out of pocket with you?” means “was she rude to you?”

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fposte June 26, 2013 at 7:45 pm

And I’m from the same region as you and I’ve never heard that–I’ve only heard the “out of money” one.

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Jamie June 26, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Come to think of it my husband is the only one I know to use it that way. He’s been known to use phrases in unconventional ways.

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MM June 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm

“Out of pocket” here means that you have to pay for it yourself (example: the company won’t pay for your meals – you’ll need to pay that out of pocket).

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Jamie June 26, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Oh yeah – I’ve heard that usage, too.

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Al Lo June 26, 2013 at 5:08 pm

That’s the only meaning of the phrase I’m familiar with.

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Victoria Nonprofit June 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Me too!

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tcookson June 26, 2013 at 5:56 pm

I’ve heard both . . . although I tend to think of “out of pocket expenses” before I think of “not at my desk”

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Jazzy Red June 27, 2013 at 9:47 am

It’s the only meaning that actually makes any sense.

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Elizabeth June 26, 2013 at 5:17 pm

That meaning makes sense. I can visualize someone actually reaching into their pocket for their wallet. It sounds like some people are confusing it with “out of office,” though, which instead makes me visualize someone who works in a pocket.

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FD June 26, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Yeah, I’ve never heard it used any other way. Must be a regional thing.

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Victoria Nonprofit June 26, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Heh. My org uses “offline” for the same situations. It seems to mean, roughly, “I’m not going to be as available as usual,” or maybe “I’m not going to be in touch at all.”

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Natalie June 26, 2013 at 6:17 pm

That actually seems logical to me, since IME people are usually talking about email availability when they say they will be “out of pocket” during their upcoming vacation or whatever.

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PuppyKat June 26, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Never heard that phrase connected with that definition before. Interesting!

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Loose Seal June 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm

I agree that must be regional. I’ve heard “out of pocket” to mean unreachable my entire life and I’m forty-something.

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Catherine June 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm

“Hopefully” makes me want to scream.

On the other hand, after three years of trying, I’ve managed to get people around here to find another word for “ruggedized.” Oh, god, I feel nauseous just typing it.

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Grammar Police June 26, 2013 at 4:46 pm

You mean you feel nauseated (unless of course you meant to imply you make others sick). ;)

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Al Lo June 26, 2013 at 5:09 pm

+1000

The misuse of “nauseous” is one of my biggest pet peeves!

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Brton3 June 26, 2013 at 4:52 pm

No offense but people who get worked up about “hopefully” make me want to scream.

Nobody who hears you say “hopefully I’ll get the job” misunderstands your meaning to be “I’ll get the job, and I’ll do it while being hopeful” which is the supposed “correct” usage of the word. Indeed, the “wrong” usage of hopefully is so ubiquitous that it’s rare to hear it used as a normal adverb (as in, “she went into the store hopefully, expecting to see her favorite chocolate teapots on sale.” Or god forbid, if you want to be a real pedant, “she went hopefully into the store…”)

Millions of people use this word the “wrong” way totally spontaneously, without ever being “taught” to do so, because it is useful and fills a vernacular need. It’s not until much later in life, after they have read some column by some language critic, that people suddenly decide the ubiquitous real-world usage is unacceptable. (This judgment never happens unprompted by some self-proclaimed grammar authority, because most people do not sit around contemplating the nuances of adverb usage. And in this context it isn’t an adverb anyway and might as well be considered to be a different word entirely.)

/rant

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RG June 26, 2013 at 4:56 pm

And meanwhile, we get to see the evolution of language. :)

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twentymilehike June 26, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Oh hell … now I’m going to be tempted to use “hopefully” I a whole new way … I’ve been burdened by historical knowledge. How exciting!

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Julie K June 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm

I am a fanatic about words, grammar, punctuation, etc., but it is hard to get worked up over “hopefully” because it’s so widely used. Sometimes I will say “it is hoped” and, I feel like a dork (but I still say it). The one that really bugs the living ^&*#% out of me is “more importantly.” I have never seen it used by anyone who actually meant “more pompously.” Just say “more important” – please! Whenever I hear it used correctly on TV, I cheer. :)

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Jessa June 26, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Exactly. Language is a living evolving thing and it’s not usually long from “don’t use that word that way, or “ain’t,” ain’t in the dictionary,” to “ain’t IS in the dictionary and everyone uses if even if not in formal discourse and yes that word CAN be used that way.”

Language is really what the majority of it’s speakers says it is.

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fposte June 26, 2013 at 10:30 pm

“Hopefully” is also a funny one because people know it, so they’ll alert on that one while letting others like “thankfully” slide right by.

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Windchime June 26, 2013 at 10:59 pm

I feel the same way about people who misuse “badly”, as in, “I feel badly for her.” You wouldn’t say, “I feel sadly for her.”.

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David Ayer January 14, 2014 at 2:00 am

Any usage that gains this much currency will have already made the dictionary as a separate entry under ‘hopefully,’ so it’s not wrong. He stated confidently before looking it up. ‘Errors’ based on mishearings, wrong assumptions about how the plural would be formed, and countless other wire crosses have helped create our language. I like the one about how ‘cherry’ came into being. It was an act of creativity to render its spelling, which was based on the instantaneous assumption that “cherise” was plural.

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Ellie H. June 26, 2013 at 4:52 pm

I am a pedant and actually say “nauseated.” Once you switch it’s easy for it to become a habit!

I’m curious about what the problem with “hopefully” is though. That seems like a totally normal English word to me. “Ruggedized” I’ve never heard before – wondering if it has a very specific context?

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Brton3 June 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm

People think you are only allowed to use it as an adverb modifying a verb. As in, “she lifted the rock hopefully, expecting to see a pot of gold.” In the context of “hopefully my resume will stand out” it is no longer an adverb but more of an interjection that expresses a desire or expectation. But it’s a favorite annoyance of people like William Safire who write endless columns about how they are the only people who REALLY understand the English language.

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Ellie H. June 27, 2013 at 11:45 am

Oh, ok. To me, it seems like quite normal usage to say something like “Hopefully it will not take too long!” I don’t think I’ve even ever heard it used as a traditional adverb except when describing someone’s expression or demeanor (“she looked hopefully toward the door”).

I am quite random in what I care about though. I don’t like the Oxford comma and I despise the singular “they,” but I like “I could care less” and other colloquial expressions that are set phrases.

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Jessa June 26, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Ruggedized came about in response to hardened tech. The kind that’s designed to survive em pulses and attacks. Also tech designed to take into wilderness or war zones and survive the trip. So one of those super high impact brief cases with foam inserts for your equipment would be a “ruggedized briefcase.” A phone designed to survive an em pulse and also being dropped from a tank would also be referred to that way.

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Brton3 June 26, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Does it make a difference if the job posting uses the phrase? I see them all the time. Instead of “skills and qualifications” it will say “core competencies.”

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Ask a Manager June 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I still wouldn’t use it. That ad might have been placed by a jargony HR department, but the hiring manager looking at your resume is probably a more normal person.

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PuppyKat June 26, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Unless you work at a university—in which case *everyone* uses long-winded jargon that they think sounds “elevated.”

Plus, in the last eighteen months, I’ve had to learn a new language that has nothing to do with my area of work. The pervasiveness of acronyms for every little thing, long complicated processes that must rival governmental departments or the military—I could go on.

But I try to keep a sense of humor about it. Although not a Star Trek fan (just married to one), I picture myself as Seven of Nine. I’ve been assimilated into the Collective! (University-speak-wise.)

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just me June 27, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Yes. Military, government: acronyms for everything. I’ve been in my job 4 years and I still don’t’ know what people are talking about half the time. Emails that read: Send your AAR IAW DDA-1 NLT EOBD.

Fortunately I found a website for military acronyms. Lifesaver. Who knew there is a whole dictionary of approved military acronyms?

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ChristineSW June 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Although I’d never use it on my resume, I actually don’t mind “core competencies” as a phrase as I’ve seen it in the context of what skills and knowledge are expected of students in professional graduate programs (e.g. Counseling, Social Work, etc).

But oh yes, I do dislike jargon or other buzz words/phrases that make you sound all impressive. And it’s not just in job and career descriptions, but also in organizations’ marketing materials. Phrases like “human capital” and “social enterprise” make my head spin. I am so happy to know that using down-to-earth, everyday language is absolutely okay and even strongly preferred because the fluffier language is just not me.

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Mike C. June 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I had to practically learn a new language when I joined my current employer. Imagine the unholy lovechild you get when you combine the following – large corporate business speak, military jargon, engineering* naming conventions and serious government/regulatory rules.

My favorite are the compound acronyms where one or more letters stands for another acronym. There’s a reason we have an online company dictionary.

*The engineering actually makes a lot of sense once you find someone who can explain the conventions. Now when I comb through a database it feels like those guys in “The Matrix” who would just read the raw code rather than video.

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bob June 26, 2013 at 5:41 pm

While we’re at it out could we get people to stop using the MBA waving hack term “thought leader”? Please??!??!

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bob June 26, 2013 at 5:41 pm

er -out…

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Anonymous June 26, 2013 at 6:49 pm

How about “Key Opinion Leader”? KOL for the MBAs among us.

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Julie K June 26, 2013 at 9:26 pm

That’s been around for quite a while. I don’t think it’s going anywhere (unfortunately).

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bob June 27, 2013 at 12:29 am

Wow I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never heard that one! That phrase is almost like Seinfeld: It’s a phrase about nothing.

Who leads these opinions and why wasn’t I consulted?!??!

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binkle June 26, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I vote for getting rid of “wheelhouse.” As in, “That skill is not in my wheelhouse.” Aye aye Cap’n! No fear have ye of evil curses says you. Fairly warned ye be says I. Aaaaaaargghhhhh.

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binkle June 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm

oops – “PROPERLY warned ye be says I”

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Chinook June 27, 2013 at 3:04 pm

“PROPERLY warned ye be says I”

I initally read that as “properly warned ye boy says I” and wondered who the Newfie was.

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twentymilehike June 26, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Hahhaha … someone just recently had to explain “wheelhouse” to me. I still don’t get it … I mean, I get their point, I just don’t get why that phrase is the best way of saying it.

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Jamie June 26, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I love this one and I’m not giving it up.

Fr me it sounds less pretentious than ” my area of expertise” in casual conversation. I wouldn’t put it in a formal communication or anything, but I think it conveys the thought pretty well. And not my wheelhouse is a much nicer way of saying, “oh dear, thank you ever so much for thinking of me for this visible but horrific project …I’m honored and humbled by your faith in me but I don’t believe at this point I am the subject matter expert something so crucial requires.” :)

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FD June 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Yeah, one of my favorite online shows uses ‘wheelhouse’ regularly, to refer to the bulk of what they cover. Namely ‘naked crazy’–i.e. people doing strange things that get them arrested and also somehow ending up naked during the course of said acts.

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Anonymous June 26, 2013 at 8:14 pm

For some reason everyone suddenly started using “wheelhouse” incessantly at my company like six months ago. I don’t know if it was in some seminar I missed or what. I was like, what’s with everyone having a wheelhouse all of the sudden?

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Loose Seal June 27, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Perhaps they watch Glee? “Wheelhouse” is mentioned in practically every episode.

Kurt: Finn, why don’t you sing “Having My Baby” to Quinn in front of her parents? That song is in your wheelhouse, right? Also, it wouldn’t put her on the spot at all.”

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Laura June 26, 2013 at 6:17 pm

And how about we banish the term “evangelize?” As in, we’ve come up with a new strategy/business process and we need to “evangelize” the message.

I also detest the expression “bandwidth” when discussing how much time there is to get something done. I’m pretty pedestrian. I just say “I don’t have time to work on that right now,” instead of “I don’t have any additional bandwidth for that,” as if I were a ethernet cable instead of a person.

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Brton3 June 26, 2013 at 6:59 pm

This could be a fun open thread. Name all the obnoxious business school and TED talk jargon normal people are bombarded with every day.

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Sarah June 26, 2013 at 11:45 pm

I work in commuication systems, and we are always talking about bandwidth (in terms of actual bandwidth of a system / cable, etc.). It seems like a natural extention to apply it to people, so perhaps my specific industry can be forgiven?

The worst one I have heard is “horsey-ducky”, and it wasn’t an isolated incident. Example: “This presentation is for Mike, so you need to make it a bit more horsey-ducky,” where Mike is some executive level person, and we are two people with engineering backgrounds. The feedback is to make it less detailed, less technical information up front, and to make it more ‘marketing’-like.

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Andrea June 27, 2013 at 8:42 am

Haha – I’ve never heard horsey-ducky before, that’s awesome.

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Jazzy Red June 27, 2013 at 10:04 am

Anyone who’s ever watched M*A*S*H is thinking “horse pucky” right about now.

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Chinook June 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm

If someone told me they wanted to evangelize a message, I would just point out that I already found religion and look at them blankly.

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HR Abnormal June 26, 2013 at 7:34 pm

At least I never hear/see “multi-task” any more.

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FD June 26, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I’m not sure if this counts as jargon, but people using i.e. and e.g. interchangeably drives me wild!

(If anyone doesn’t know, i.e. is short for ‘id est’, which means ‘that is’. It is used to clarify a statement.

Correct Use: “Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language, i.e. a language where the pitch of the sounds spoken may affect the meaning.”

E.g., on the other hand, is short for ‘exempli gratia’, which more or less means ‘for example.’ It is used to give examples to further elaborate on a statement.

Correct Use: “Maddieson said that tonal languages (e.g. Mandarin Chinese or Thai) tend to be geographically concentrated, with the vast majority found in Africa or Southeast Asia.”)

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FD June 26, 2013 at 9:36 pm

ARGH! Why do my responses not post to the bottom of the main comment section, instead of in response? Am I doing something wrong? I pick “Add One…” to post the comment, instead of hitting “Reply.”

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danr June 27, 2013 at 9:59 am

Hit reply, and they’ll sort of post in the right place…

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rw June 26, 2013 at 7:40 pm

I call it “Additional Information” at the bottom of my resume. In my mind, I have already conveyed my “core competencies” in my accomplishments, and any additional information is for clarity’s sake (hence the name).

Let’s be honest, if I haven’t won the hiring manager over with my accomplishments, then I’m likely not going to win her over just because I’ve used X program for Y years.

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Cube Ninja June 26, 2013 at 7:48 pm

I think what we need to do here is interface with the Chocolate Teapot product managers so we can achieve synergy and leverage our core competencies for globalized impact while maintaining sustainable organic growth in alignment with our cloud strategy.

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Sabrina June 26, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Don’t forget, we also need to go after low hanging fruit for some quick wins. I’ll parking lot that so we can take it offline.

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just me June 27, 2013 at 11:58 am

ugh. Parking lot. I hate that one.

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Emma June 27, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Is parking lot the new…on the shelf? on the backburner?

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The IT Manager June 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm

It’s a “technical” term used in Agile software development meaning a story or other task that is sitting off to the side waiting for someone to get to it.

The Agile methodology also use scrum as a “technical” term to mean daily, time-limited meeting so I think they had some fun when developing the methodology.

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Cube Ninja June 27, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I’ve seen “huddle” used in this same context. My SO’s former employer had “huddle rooms” instead of conference or meeting rooms.

*gag*

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De Minimis June 26, 2013 at 8:21 pm

I’d be fine if people threw around all kinds of buzzwords at my job, if they would only stop saying “physical year” for “fiscal year.” I don’t correct them or anything, but I do make a point of saying “fiscal year,” but it isn’t catching on.

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Laura June 26, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Oh dear. I worked with a woman once who would say “condensending.” I wanted to tell her that it was “condescending” but that would have been, you know, condensending.

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Mrs Addams June 27, 2013 at 9:06 am

I have a co-worker who says “ethnicity” as “ethenticity”, and “certificates” as “cerstificates”. Incredibly frustrating and somewhat embarrassing in front of clients, especially as she’s paid to teach said clients core literacy skills.

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ChristineSW June 27, 2013 at 9:34 am

I agree, although I’m not one to talk….instead of “infrastructure”, I say “infantstructure”. My husband never lets me live that down.

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Natalie June 27, 2013 at 10:43 am

I work with multiple people who say masonAry instead of masonry. Not a big deal, you’d think, except we work in property management and have to talk about masonry a lot.

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Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm

If we’re going to start talking about mispronunciations, nothing is worse than “suposably”! Unless that’s one of those words that has been misused so often that it’s now considered acceptable… ugh!

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Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Whoops – I guess it should be spelled “supposably”!

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Laura June 27, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Words that just flat-out do not exist bug me more than mispronunciations, although “supposably” irks me to no-end.

Sometimes I want to stand up on my desk and shout, “OK people, for the last time, THERE IS NO SUCH WORD AS ‘IRREGARDLESS!’”

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HRAnon July 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm

I bite my tongue every time I hear “mute point”- then I die a little inside.

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Anonymous June 26, 2013 at 8:35 pm

This is more of a cover letter question I suppose, but what do you think of including some jargony language if the job description is full of it? Like, if they talk about core competencies, should you? I recently applied for a job where the job description was insanely jargony. I tried to use some of the same style & language in my cover letter (somewhat – I also wanted it to sound like a human wrote it) and my sister/proofreader commented that it was very business-speaky. I didn’t get past the application stage. I’ve always tried to match the tone/voice of the company to which I’m applying but something didn’t work here.

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Ask a Manager June 26, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I’d always write cover letters in a normal voice and not be swayed by a jargony ad. Sometimes one person writes the ad (HR) and a different person reads the cover letter (hiring manager).

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Julie K June 26, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I have a list that I keep (and add to) in my Outlook Notes. Here’s the list so far:
- Invite, as a noun
- Slide deck
- High level (means a non-detailed, bird’s eye view, but to me, it sounds like it means something very complicated)
- Heat map
- Swim lanes
- Can you speak to that?
- I don’t have visibility into that
- At the end of the day
- Strategic alliance
- Leverage
- One-off
- Let’s take that offline
- Pushback
- Bandwidth
- Pain points

I have been able to add to my list, thanks to today’s comments!

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Jamie June 26, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Yikes, I’m guilty of six of those on a very regular basis.

You all would totally hate me!

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Julie K June 27, 2013 at 7:53 pm

But we all love you, Jamie! :)

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HRAnon July 3, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Depends on which 6. ;)

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Jazzy Red June 27, 2013 at 10:08 am

Pain Points.

My chiropractor knows all about those.

I don’t want to know any other definition for that phrase.

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Emma June 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

Thank you! I was on a “high level” conference call this week to discuss my new job, which had me very worried about its complexity, what had I gotten myself into, etc. I too learned it just meant a broad overview.

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Natalie June 27, 2013 at 10:45 am

I guess that’s replaced “30,000 feet view” in the lexicon.

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Vicki July 3, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Socialize.

As in “I want to meet with you to socialize a PowerPoint deck”.

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Vicki July 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Also “drill down” and it’s buddy “double click” (used to discuss bullet points, no computer involved.)

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FD June 26, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Some of these are simply misused words (nouns being used improperly as verbs, in most cases), but some of the jargon it seems to me does have value; it’s simply overused.

For example, leverage (apart from the physics definition) is a very useful word to use where you think you need to expend some political capital to get something done. For example: “We helped Chris’s team when their chocolate teapot machine broke down last June; let’s see if we can leverage that to get him to stand with us when we push for a major renovation of the midwestern district chocolate teapot factories.” There aren’t any words I know besides leverage that would give quite the same idea in only one word. But any word gets trite once it’s over used (for example, saying someone is “nice” tells me next to nothing about them).

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saf June 26, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Reach out. I do not reach out. I call. I email. I visit.

I do not reach out.

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Kelly O June 27, 2013 at 11:57 am

Not even for the healing?

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Vicki July 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm

YES!

The worst use of this, for me, was from the IT Support team at LastJob. “I wanted to reach out to you about your request.”

No. You want to help resolve it or escalate it up the chain.

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Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 1:28 am

I just moved to Seattle and my own small rebellion against unnecessary made up words is that I refuse to use the special Starbucks words for drink sizes instead ordering a “large” or if I am feeling really daring, an “extra large”. The cashiers gently try to correct me, but I stare back blankly, like a tourist from a world without Starbucks (which is basically what I was before I moved here.)

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MovingRightAlong June 27, 2013 at 2:10 am

I feel your pain, especially because I h ave to stare at the menu to figure out how to translate “small coffee” into Starbucks sizes. In the end, though, you’re only making your point to an hourly employee- not to Starbucks. And that hourly employee is probably just trying to confirm what size you want instead of preparing what size she thinks you want. Clarifying what a customer wants is just good service and there’s no use getting mad about it. If you really want to avoid the coffee jargon, order using the number of ounces. It’s clear and you don’t have to learn their stupid size names.

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Jessa June 27, 2013 at 3:09 am

But there is a difference between for instance pointing to different sized cups and saying which one do you want, and pretentiously repeating the size names that Starbucks uses without explaining what they stood for. Or when you know for sure what the customer wants when they say “small or medium,” for instance and still keep repeating your size names until the customer says one in some Pavlovian attempt to force them to use your sizes or make them feel stupid. I have found far too many Starbucks employees who do this the wrong way. This is true of other places too. If the customer’s language makes it understandable what they want, trying to force them to use your corporate jargon before being willing to take an order strikes me as rude and nasty. And honestly small should mean the smallest thing you have, medium the next up, large etc. If there’s really a question, if people asking for small are constantly complaining that small is “too small,” then hold up a cup and say this is our smallest is this what you want?

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Dulcinea June 27, 2013 at 8:40 am

I have had this experience as well, and I think that it must be a starbucks policy. I also refuse to order using their silly names. I like MovingRightAlong’s suggestion to order by ounces.

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Christina June 27, 2013 at 11:48 am

Some Starbucks actually have a smaller size than is listed on the menu, a “short,” which is 8 ounces. So as a customer, ordering a “small” and assuming it’s the smallest size on the menu, and as a worker, assuming they want the smallest size available, could end up with the customer not getting what they thought they ordered.

That said, I hate the venti/grande thing too and usually just ask for the smallest size they have.

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AnAmy June 27, 2013 at 2:53 pm

As a former Starbucks employee, I assure you that the barista doesn’t care what you call it. When you say you want a large decaf latte with soy milk, they’ll confirm that you want a “decaf Venti soy latte,” because that’s how they’ve been trained to say it – a consistent order is used so that everyone can easily remember, make, ring up or mark every drink that gets ordered. It’s not personal, it just makes the job easier.

I was always amazed at how worked up people got over coffee.

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Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 11:40 am

Fun fact – they also have a short (smaller than the “tall”) that isn’t on the menu. It is really useful if you want the same ammount of espresso but less milk in your latte. The price difference is small, but the espresso/milk ratio is better.

In normal-person lingo, maybe that would be extra small?

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Natalie June 27, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I think “short” is a really coffee shop word. My recollection from pre-Starbucks coffee shops is that you would specify the number of espresso shots, and specify “short” and “tall” meaning how much other stuff would be in there. So a 3-shot short latte would be mostly espresso and almost no steamed milk, and a 1-shot tall would be the inverse.

Presumably this is why Starbucks uses “tall” to mean smallest size – they took the short of the menu, and added more sizes above it.

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Vicki July 3, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Our baristas (San Francisco Peninsula) don’t bother to try to correct us. They just grab the proper cup.

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Blinx June 27, 2013 at 8:30 am

Aww, geez guys — I’ve been out of work for a while and I’m getting all weepy and nostalgic for all the business jargon! Reading this thread has brought it all back in a flash. Now excuse me while I go ideate…

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Vicki July 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I saw what you did there!

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Just sayin' June 27, 2013 at 9:15 am

“Incentivize” does not make you sound smarter – it just makes you look pompous. The correct verb is “incent,” as in, “The bonus plan is designed to incent greater focus on the sale of products from the higher-margin categories.”

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TK June 27, 2013 at 10:30 am

I don’t work in the corporate world and never will, but I didn’t realize that “incentivize” was a corporate-inspired formation. And this is the first time I’ve ever heard “incent.” A quick search suggests that it too is a corporate-inspired backformation from “incentive,” and actually of newer vintage, so really neither is the “correct verb”– though language is fluid, not fixed, and I think the word, whatever its form, serves a useful purpose.

This article illuminates well the shades of meaning incentivize/incent provides over other similar words: http://lexicide.com/?p=162.

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bearing June 27, 2013 at 10:59 am

The verb that “incentive” is based on is “incite,” not “incent.” “Incent” is a back-formation.

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Ursula June 27, 2013 at 11:42 am

There are so many corporate mutations of words that drive me nuts. One is “learnings”. With an s at the end. As in, “What learnings will we take away from this meeting?”

Another is “operationalize”. I know it’s in the dictionary, but really? Can’t you simply say put into operation?

Sigh.

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Vicki July 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm

“Ask”.
As a noun.

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Parfait June 27, 2013 at 11:54 am

I am waging a lonely war against “please don’t hesitate to…” I may be the only one, but I don’t see what that gains us over just saying “Please.”

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Chinook June 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm

“but I don’t see what that gains us over just saying “Please.””

Cuz I am Canadian and if I don’t say please they will take away my rights to maple syrup on my pancakes, eh?

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Cat June 28, 2013 at 10:42 am

Increasing the number of hedge words in a given sentence increases the deferentialness of the sentence. Often it’s unnecessary; occasionally you really do want to signal that you’re doing the human equivalent of what your dog does when he rolls over and exposes his belly.

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Elizabeth West June 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm

rather than like someone who got trapped in a really boring HR conference and never escaped.

LOL! This made me giggle.

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PuppyKat June 27, 2013 at 2:49 pm

One word and one phrase I’d really like to vaporize:

“Adminstrate, used for “administer”
“Drill down,” which seems to be the pet phrase at the university I work at. It’s used for “examine”—which I think is more descriptive.

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Chinook June 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm

You all will appreciate this tweet I read yesterday from a parody twitter account for the Calgary mayor “I can’t believe I have to say this, but since we are all using it wrong anyway, effect and affect are officially now both correct.”

Yeah – the all powerful Mayor Nenshi has declared the two synonyms, atleast in Calgary – let the applause begin.

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Chinook June 27, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Nenshi did say that, regretfully, it is beyond his powers to invoke Darwin’s law on people silly enough to boating during a raging flood.

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Anonymous June 28, 2013 at 9:42 am

Check that with IT people for an insight to the word “core”.

Never thought of it “important”. until now that is.

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