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Business Jargons Are Alienating Over Half of Americans

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A new survey reveals that 43% of workers believe using corporate jargon can alienate workers who don’t understand it, but certain phrases confuse Americans more than others.

A nationwide survey conducted by VoiceNation has revealed the most misunderstood jargon in the world of business. The survey polled 1,000 Americans across various demographics and industries.

Over Half of Americans Don’t Understand the Term Boil the Ocean

The term “Boil the ocean” ranked as the most misunderstood business jargon, with 61% of those polled saying they did not understand the term. Following closely behind was COP (close of play), with 56% misunderstanding the phrase, and “the strategic staircase” confused 42% of participants.

Business Jargons

% of Americans who Voted

Boil the ocean




The strategic staircase


Bleeding edge


Idea shower


Make hay




360 thinking


Action Item


Content is king


Move the needle


Low-hanging fruit


Move the goalpost


Not enough bandwidth


Apples to apples


The survey also revealed discrepancies in jargon across industries. Manufacturing, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals sectors were found to have the highest average number of misunderstood terms, with respondents misunderstanding five business jargons on average in these sectors.

It may not come as a surprise that federal and government organisations knew 95% of the jargon, with just one jargon not recognised on average by each respondent.

The study also found that 55- to 64-year-olds have a poorer understanding of jargon compared to their younger counterparts. Specifically, “COP” was identified as the most misunderstood term among 18–24-year-olds, while “Boil the ocean” was the primary source of confusion for respondents aged 55–64. On average, 55–64-year-olds were confused by five jargons, while those within the 25–34 age bracket ranked among the best at understanding jargon, with 4 only misunderstood.

Commenting on the survey results, Dan Marshall, group head of digital at Moneypenny and VoiceNation, said: “Our survey revealed significant disparities in the understanding of business jargon among Americans. This lack of comprehension can hinder effective communication and collaboration in the workplace, ultimately affecting productivity and morale.

“With the data findings, 43% of workers believe corporate jargon can alienate those who don’t understand. Employers need to be mindful of the language they use, ensuring it is accessible to all employees. By fostering a culture of transparent communication and minimising reliance on jargon, companies can create an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and understood.”

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