Big Fail: 7 Phrases and Clichés to Avoid

Steve Bisciotti

The Ray Rice saga continues. The latest installment offers up a lesson on word choice.

On Friday, ESPN's "Outside the Lines" published a lengthy story about the Rice case, claiming that Ravens management knew about the videotape showing Rice in February knocking out his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City elevator—the one that eventually led to him being unceremoniously shamed from the league. The report prompted the Ravens to call a news conference on Monday, during which team owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged that the organization knew of the tape's existence but that he "lacked a whole lot of interest" in seeing it.

"That’s the big fail," Bisciotti said, "If we had gotten the video, if we had thought of that. But no, I wasn’t curious to see the video."

Bisciotti's choice of "big fail," a tired phrase often used in memes, to describe the major flaw in his organization's handling of the Rice situation was a cringeworthy moment. When dealing with a contentious situation— especially one that has made national headlines for weeks—it's best to avoid modish phrases like the one Bisciotti employed.

With that in mind, here are 7 other phrases, clichés and jargon to avoid in your public speaking or writing, courtesy of contributors to PR News' Writer's Guidebook Vol. 1:

  • Next generation, best-in-breed, leading edge: The “show don’t tell” adage applies to PR and matters tremendously. We need to show that our messages are authentic through proof, not mere words.
  • Synergy: While the concept of synergy is not bad, the term has been so overused in the corporate world that it inspires more cynicism than confidence.
  • In this day and age: It will be clear to the reader when you’re writing about the present.
  • Best-in-class: When an objective source offers evidence that something really is the best, that’s great. When a client wants to say it about him or herself, you don’t want to dampen their excitement. But it’s often worth it to find a more specific, yet accurate, term.
  • I’m going to tell you: There’s no need to preface what you’re going to share. Just say it.
  • Real-world: What other world might people imagine we’re talking about?
  • In all honesty: The statement gives the impression that other portions of the writing may not be honest. This is not a favorable impression to give, especially in writing.

Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bw_greene