Language is constantly changing, so what was modern and appropriate decades ago may not be today. Whether you’re writing a business speech, an internal memo, or marketing content, you should make sure your language is culturally appropriate and to the point. Here’s a list of seven words and phrases you should stop using today and what you should say instead.
First, here are some words and phrases that are outdated and not inclusive:
1. Culture Fit
A “culture fit” mindset in recruitment is one that aims to select candidates based on how likely they are to reflect and match the company’s values and behaviors. The problem with this is it encourages a culture of sameness, rather than diversity.
Instead of a culture fit mindset, we should talk about a culture add mindset, where recruiters aim to select candidates based not only on their ability to value a company’s attitudes and behaviors, but on the diversity of their experience, opinions, and skills. The focus should be on the positive contribution an individual can make to the company, rather than what they lack.
You may have heard the term “powwow” used when referring to an office meeting or brainstorm. However, this usage is an example of cultural appropriation.
A powwow is a Native American ceremony that involves eating, singing, cultural celebration, and spiritual and religious practices.
The problem with using this term to mean “meeting” in a business context is that it detracts from the word’s meaning in Native American culture.
Instead of “powwow,” say:
● Let’s have a meeting or brainstorm.
● We put our heads together yesterday.
“Find your tribe” is a relatively new saying that means “find your community.” It refers to finding a group of likeminded friends.
However, the term “tribe” has a problematic history. Although its official meaning is “a group of people, often of related families, who live together, sharing the same language, culture, and history” (Cambridge Dictionary), for centuries, “tribe” was used by colonizers to categorize the Indigenous peoples of the African and American continents. The idiomatic usage of this term is considered disrespectful, as it promotes stereotypes about Indigenous cultures.
Instead of “tribe,” say:
● Find your community.
● We’re kindred spirits.
Let’s move on to overused clichés:
4. At the End of the Day
“At the end of the day” was once described as Britain’s most annoying common office cliché. Rather than referring to the literal end of the day (i.e., 6pm), the phrase is used to mean “finally” or “when everything has been considered.”
Instead of “at the end of the day,” say:
● Ultimately, I believe the problem is…
● Taking everything into consideration, we should…
5. Think Outside the Box
The phrase “think outside the box” comes from management consultants in the early 1970s encouraging their clients to think laterally by undertaking the nine dots puzzle. The idea was to get people thinking creatively and unconventionally. The problem with this phrase is that it’s become so common, it’s now almost meaningless.
Instead of “think outside the box,” say:
● Let’s look at things from another perspective.
● Try stretching your imagination.
6. On the Same Page
In contrast, if everyone is on the same page, it means they’re approaching things from the same angle. Now that we live in an age of eBooks and online content, the concept of pages is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and this phrase is losing its meaning.
Instead of “on the same page,” say:
● They have a shared understanding.
● Let’s work in harmony.
And finally, here are a few terms that are linguistically redundant but still commonly used:
7. New Innovations
If something is an innovation, it must also be new by nature. This is a common example of a linguistically redundant phrase that pops up in press releases and corporate communications, despite being all fluff. Ditch these unnecessary filler words to deliver a more impactful message.
8. Chai Tea
“Chai tea” is often used to refer to sweet Indian spiced tea. However, chai is the Hindi word for tea, so by naming the beverage “chai tea,” we are in fact calling it “tea tea.” To avoid sounding ridiculous to our Indian colleagues, simply ask for chai.
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