How To Use Certain Words and Avoid Others

Reg Rowe
Reg Rowe

In the 2005 movie Fun with Dick and Jane, Dick Harper (Jim Carrey), who plays a PR manager, conducts a corporate tour. He tells his guests, “Globodyne’s a consolidator of media properties and data retrieval with a focus in fiber-optic content provision. It’s basically a synergy of Web-based and platform-based UNIX-driven delivery systems.” When they stare at him dumbfounded, he quickly admits, “OK, I made that last part up.” Screenwriters Judd Apatow and Nicholas Stoller were right on the money with their spin on corporate speak—hackneyed words that constantly populate news releases, but shouldn’t.

If you’re churning out boring, jargon-filled releases day after day because that’s how it’s always been done, what value are you bringing to your company or your clients? You might as well delegate release writing to the interns.

If, however, you’d like to breathe new life into your headlines and copy, start by avoiding the words that journalists loathe and start using words that grab their attention and boost the odds that your release will be read and, more important, shared.


1. Solutions. Without a doubt, the most overused word in news release headlines, copy and corporate boilerplate. Every company has a “synergistic, cutting-edge, value-added, outside-the-box, industry-leading, innovative, disruptive, world class, revolutionary solution to (fill in the blank).”

2. Synergy. The word means the combined entity is greater than the sum of its parts. In the corporate world, it most often refers to mergers. I can’t remember many mergers where synergy would describe the merged company.

3. Bleeding edge/Cutting edge. How many companies or products truly can claim such a lofty position? It’s getting pretty crowded out there on the edge.

4. Value-added. Shouldn’t the value you bring to your clients be intrinsic? Why are you adding it?

5. Outside the box. Where are all the boxes from which every company has escaped?

6. Industry-leading/Leader. Judging by the use of these phrases, every company distributing a news release today is a leader. How are they judging leadership? International, national, regional, local? Technology, revenue, profit, number of employees, offices? If everybody is leading, who’s following?

7. Innovative. Even companies or products that win awards for innovation are rarely innovative.

8. Disruptive. Quick, name five disruptive products released in the past year. Sorry, time’s up. But judging from news releases, there are hundreds. Remember, disruption takes a long time.

9. World class. Most often found in corporate boilerplate, the phrase “world class” has no real meaning. Whom are you measuring against? St. Kitts & Nevis or China? And no one ever says American class or Canadian class. Don’t use it.

10. Revolutionary. One definition is “constituting or bringing about a major or fundamental change.” Along with innovative and disruptive, it is highly unlikely your new product is truly revolutionary. It’s just the kind of hyperbole you should avoid.


The key to getting a news release read is making sure the news benefits your target audience. If it doesn’t, it won’t be read. By highlighting key benefits in the headline and using key words, you will grab their attention and significantly increase readership.

The three most effective words to use in writing a news release and headline are “free,” “new” and “best.”

The meanings are well understood by all. For blogs, some of the best words for headlines are surprising, smart, science and critical.

Since the object of social media is to get people to read and share your message, strong headlines using the right words can improve sharing. However, social media such as Facebook and Twitter is a bit different. Those readers want manageable pieces of information that won’t take much of their time to read.

Some successful social media words include: “how to,” “facts” and “great.” The number ten is popular as in Top 10 lists, a big favorite.

Breathe new life into your headlines and copy with the right words—and you will grab readers’ attention and make them want to share.


Reg Rowe is founder of GrayHairPR, He can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the June 9, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.