1. Biodiversity conservation policies incorporating a no net loss (NNL) principle are being implemented in many countries. However, there are linguistic and conceptual inconsistencies in the use of terms underlying these NNL policies. 2. We identify inconsistencies that emerge in the usage of eight key terms and phrases associated with NNL policies: biodiversity, frames of reference (i.e. baselines, counterfactuals), no net loss, mitigation hierarchy, biodiversity offset, in-kind/out-of-kind, direct/indirect and multipliers. 3. For each term, we make recommendations to support conceptual convergence, reduce ambiguity and improve clarity in communication and policy documentation. However, we also warn of the challenges in achieving convergence, especially given the linguistic inconsistencies in several of these key concepts among countries in which NNL policies are employed. 4. Policy implications. The recommendations made in this article, on improving clarity and supporting convergence on key no net loss concepts, should help eliminate ambiguity in policy documentation. This is crucial if policymakers are to design robust policies that are (i) transparent, (ii) translatable into practice in a consistent manner and (iii) sufficiently understood and supported by stakeholders to be effective in practice.