5 Everyday Words You're Probably Using Wrong at Work

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May 26, 2024 at 1:50AM UTC
We all know that most buzzwords created for business have completely lost their meaning. While "synergy" and "circling back" might have been suave sayings at one point, by now, they've become sentence candy for the most insufferable of our colleagues. 
Unfortunately, the workplace has also come to collect some everyday phrases and words, according to Ross and Kathryn Petras, whose work was published in the Harvard Business Review
"Many times, especially in business settings, people use words that they think they know — but don’t," they write. This can be detrimental not only to the idea you're trying to get across, but to your reputation altogether. 
Below, we've outlined five words that the authors report are commonly misused at work — and what to say instead. 

1. "Methodology"

While many of us (including myself, prior to this reading) use "methodology" to describe a process or, well, method, the words don't have the same meaning. 
"The word to use instead is 'method.' The '-logy' tacked onto the end of method transforms it into the study of methods," the authors explain. "Methodology has its place in English — it’s just that it should stay there and not substitute for method."

2. "Impacts on"

While we often talk about how a business decision "impacts on " the bottom line or how a method "impacts on" our interpretation of data, we may be conceiving of "impact" wrong. 
"In a 2015 American Heritage Dictionary survey of language experts, 79% disapproved of using 'impacts on' to mean 'affect,'" the writers explain. "Another 39% disapproved of using 'impact' to mean 'affect' even without that preposition 'on.'"
The word "impact" originally involved collisions — and that's still the most common and most correct usage of the word. While you can use it to mean "affect," use it sparingly — and be sure to drop the preposition "on," the authors caution. 

3. "Unique"

Technically, "unique" means being unlike anything else — wholly original, one of a kind. That means, despite popular usage to mean "exceptional" or "extraordinary," something can't technically be the "most unique" nor can we describe a group of things as unique. 
"Let’s keep unique meaning, well, unique. For plural things that we want to call unique, we can instead say 'unusual' or 'exceptional,'" the authors write. 

4. "Statistically significant"

Statistically significant doesn't necessarily mean that something was significant, as in, reportable or having a "wow!" factor. Instead, it signifies that whatever was observed in a study "has only a low probability of being due to chance," the authors explain. Don't use this phrase to mean something is noteworthy or to denote importance. That's just not true. 

5. "In regard[s] to"

This one is pretty simple. If you're regarding something, it should be said "in regard to" instead of "in regards to." 
"Even better, just say 'regarding' or 'about,'" the authors say. "For the record, 'regards' with the 's' is correct in the phrase 'as regards,' where 'regard' is a verb."

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