Words We Should Stop Using

El Paso–Juárez, Texas and Mexico; photo by the author

Business and technology are filled with gendered, racist, and otherwise insidious words that we should stop using. I am not the first to point this out, nor will I write the most comprehensive post on the topic. Nevertheless, it is helpful for me, and hopefully the team at Brightflag, to maintain this list and refer to it as we work to eliminate biases and change deeply ingrained behaviors.

I will update this list over time, noting when I do so. The absence of a word on this list doesn’t mean that I endorse its continued use. Suggestions and critiques are welcome via comments or email.

  • Bend over → don’t leave off “backwards” (added September 7, 2021)
  • Black hat (as in hacking) → malicious (added October 16, 2020)
  • Blacklist → deny list
  • Chairman → chairperson (added September 29, 2020)
  • Chinese wall → ethical wall (added March 20, 2021)
  • Foreman (as in head juror) → foreperson (added April 17, 2021)
  • Gals/girls (as in, “the gals”) → ladies or women (added October 21, 2020)
  • Gentlemen’s agreement → good faith agreement (added January 29, 2021)
  • Grandfather → legacy
  • Guys (as in, “hey, guys”) → e.g., team
  • Man days/hours/power → person days/hours/power (expanded October 16, 2020)
  • Man the e.g. phones → staff the phones (added February 3, 2021)
  • Master (as in technology) → primary
  • Middleman → intermediary (added October 25, 2020)
  • Open the kimono → e.g., disclose more information (added March 20, 2021)
  • Postmortem → retrospective
  • Rule of thumb → e.g., guideline (added February 15, 2021)
  • Salesmanship → sales acumen (added February 9, 2021)
  • Slave (as in technology) → replica
  • [Be a] slave to → e.g., be beholden to (added December 12, 2020)
  • Slave away → e.g., work hard (added November 15, 2020)
  • Stepchild (in the pejorative) → e.g., neglected (added October 15, 2020)
  • Straw man → e.g., outline (added June 17, 2021)
  • Trump → top (added September 28, 2020)
  • White hat (as in hacking) → ethical (added October 16, 2020)
  • Whitelist → allow list
  • Wifebeater (as in clothing) → tank top (added October 28, 2020)
  • Wingman → partner (added November 17, 2020)
  • Workmanlike manner → professional manner (added June 3, 2021)

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Chief Customer Officer at Brightflag. I write about issues relevant to and situations faced by SaaS companies as they scale.

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Kevin Cohn

Kevin Cohn

Chief Customer Officer at Brightflag. I write about issues relevant to and situations faced by SaaS companies as they scale.

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