“Human capital” is among the most hated pieces of management jargon,
according to a survey of business writers.
Top of the hate list is "corporate alliancing" followed by
"global development" with human capital the third most disliked term.
The Plain English Audit, published by HR and management agency Colette Hill
Associates, also found terms such as "mentoring" and
"outsourcing" are now widely used and understood.
The survey asked business journalists to nominate the phrases they most
Suggested alternatives for "corporate alliancing" include
"joint venture" and "cooperation". Respondents said human
capital could be replaced by "people", "staff" or
MD Colette Hill said, "Pet hates are words which are hard to
understand, for example ‘disintermediation’, or ones used to disguise
"Empowerment is widely seen as a euphemism for massive work
intensification while a whole range of words are rejected as attempts to
Other alternatives include international expansion for global development,
and recruitment or headhunting instead of executive search and selection.
Hill said, "Top business writers hate jargon with a passion and
especially reject words they regard as euphemisms for un-pleasant realities
such as redundancy.
"Terms such as outsourcing and outplacement have gained wide
acceptance. This shows how quickly terms are accepted if they are useful in
describing evolving business reality."