Words that Repel Reporters (Let us Count the Ways)


They make most reporters recoil. At best, their appearance may induce drowsiness or cause reporters to roll their eyeballs upward. At worst, they significantly reduce your chances of getting your message across the plate. They’re words that repel reporters.

PR folks like to call themselves “storytellers.” Fair enough. But then why do too many press releases still possess hackneyed (and puffy) terms that make reporters think that the press releases they receive in their inboxes have been assembled, as opposed to written?

In a social media age, PR pros owe it to themselves to write in conversational tones and shouldn’t have to rely on phrases and terms whose meanings tend to drift away like the Santa Ana winds.

You may have a story that’s tailor-made for the reporter or media outlet, but if the release (or email) is bogged down by the words and terms below, the journalist may give pause about dignifying the pitch.

So, in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, how about putting these words and phrases to pasture when it comes to writing effective press releases?

  1. Engagement 

  2. Fastest-growing

  3. High-performance

  4. Incredible

  5. Leading

  6. Powerful

  7. Solutions

  8. Unparalleled

  9. Utilize

  10. “We are excited…” quote about product/service/executive appointment/whatever

Are we missing any words that PR pros can forever eliminate from their written communications?

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79 Comments

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  • Joan Stewart

    best in class and cross-platform

  • Jennigay Coetzer

    Here are a few more I picked up from recent press releases I received: unique,extremely unique,unsurpassed, boasts, world class, visionary, outstanding, momentous (event), value proposition, fastest growing, pleased to announce, proud to be (associated with this project).

  • AngelaKeen

    This is a start. I’m a former News Reporter and spent 20 years in this career. I also spent a little time in PR which helps me understand “the other side”.
    So many press releases are filled with over the top adjectives. Utilize is probably ine of the most over used words in the American-English language. To utilize something is to use something in a way other than how it was intended. Why not just say used!
    Keep it simple and at the same time tell me what makes your product or company different than your competitors. What makes you unique? Give me a compelling personal story linked to your press release. Follow up with me, give me something different than what you give to the news outlet across the street.

  • Steve

    I agree, use of these terms are way overused and many times cannot be substantiated.

    Let’s make a deal: ill stop using terms that bug the media if the media will at least make an honest attempt to reply one way or another to a story pitch. Say yay or nay, but don’t just ignore. It wastes my time and yours.

  • Gabriel Guerrero

    Groundbreaking

  • Jack Irvine

    Paradigm

  • Helen Ryan

    How about this for a pitch? (and good for a laugh. Thanks for the reminder.) “We are excited to present a powerful, unparalleled solution that features incredible ways to utilize the fastest-growing method for high-performance consumer engagement.”

  • Ange Frymire Fleming

    Yes, a few others that are “meaningless” include:
    We are proud…
    We are committed to…

    Also, using the same boilerplate for all news releases is troublesome. Create at least 5 or more boilerplates so that news releases are not “repetitive” with organizational facts. These will be skimmed and, eventually, missed…

  • James Woodworth

    How about:
    - Award Winning
    - Top of the line
    - Never before…

    The list goes on.

    Happy 2013 folks!

  • PR Chappie

    You do realise that these are the very words that clients EXPECT to see in their press releases. We can advise all we want but at the end of the day the client has final approval. Every PR knows that they have to write their press releases so that the journalist can literally pick it up and drop it straight into their publication. Explaining this to clients is another matter. Some (good) clients will accept this. Others just want something that will read the way they want it to on their websites – sadly!

  • Tiffany

    Add “cutting edge” to that list!

  • tonya

    other words to eliminate:
    >>best-in-class (yes, it IS still used)
    >>robust (ewww)
    >>”…today announces…” (really?

  • Rose Sexton

    Unique! Seldom true.

  • Dan LeMaire-Bauch

    I do always wonder why people use “utilize” when they could utilize the shorter, more familiar word “use”.

  • Alesa

    In addition to “excited” — “We are pleased/thrilled/honored …”

  • Gwyn Nichols, Writer

    Leverage. ROI. Unique.

  • Barbie Pressly

    The challenge for PR pros is getting their clients to agree to take those words out of the release!! Who’s with me here? How many times do you edit the release and the client puts those words back in -”because they’re true.’ ugh!

  • Toni-Anne Blake

    Revolutionized

  • jaquita ball

    “the best (product or service)” … you could be asked to prove that!

  • Elizabeth

    Yes, to your last question: It is the newest, A developing, and what, I think is more important whether in written or spoken “speech” is the tone. A Happy New Year can only be had if undue fears were not generated by PR…

  • Betsy Yates

    Unprecedented!

  • Jim Grandone

    So glad “premier” was not on the list!

  • carmen burns

    thank you, thank you, thank you for putting “utilize” on that list. use of the word is dare i say it…over-utilized.

  • Joe

    I live in Southern California. In no sense do Santa Ana winds “drift away.”

  • gpkc

    As a veteran newsdesk person I could write a book on bad press releases. The best ones have at the top in bullet form:: Who, Where, When, What and a phone number on site for a contact person. Save the fluffy stuff for later in the release.

    These are busy people who have just seconds to glance at your email or release, so keep it simple.

  • Mark Ferguson

    My favourite idiot organisation insisted on repeatedly calling themselves a ‘one-stop-shop’. Worse part was they weren’t even this.

  • Lauren Rosenberg

    unique, amazing, awesome

  • Mike Larson

    add cutting-edge, unmatched, and best-in-class to the herd

  • Dru Brown

    Robust

  • Connie Crowther

    More words:
    world-class
    state-of-the-art
    major
    unsurpassed
    proud to announce
    announces
    And I could go on and on…

  • darius

    there’s even a tumblr set up for excited: http://everyonesexcited.tumblr.com/

  • Sally Ling

    How about ‘delighted’ and ‘reaching out’?

  • Cor

    “…like the Santa Ana winds.”

  • Jean Heller

    I’ve been on both sides as well, nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor in New York City, Washington, D.C. & elsewhere, now the owner of a PR and marketing firm. I tell those who write for me to simply tell the story. If their writing cannot generate excitement, I need new writers. And can the exclamation points. Please.

  • Rick Ornberg

    “…would like to take this opportunity to…”

  • Sheryl Hutchison

    “Enterprise” – which seems to be used for just about anything and everything anymore. I always wanna respond, “Beam me up!

  • Michael A McKay

    In 2013, I hope not to hear “…going forward” and “passionate”. So over-used as to be meaningless.

  • Stu Duckow

    I have a client who uses initials all the time. And he’s a PRO for a Saas PRM. Usually takes me until EOD to understand him.

  • Carl

    Having spent a combined 35 years on both the news and PR side, I agree with all the suggestions on words that should be banned, though any modifier for “unique” makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

    As to clients “expecting” certain words in their news releases, PR professionals need to act like professionals and counsel their clients, not just do their bidding.

    Finally, PLEASE stop using the phrase “PRESS” release. As we enter 2013, only a very small percentage of news gets anywhere near a printing press. “NEWS RELEASE” or “MEDIA RELEASE” going forward (another term to be banished), please.

  • Sher

    Thanks. I’m passing this on to the PR team where I work as we’re often told to add some of these words. As a former journalist, I know how much it hurts the pitch.

  • Molly Phillips

    “Making a difference” – what the hell does that mean anyways? Reporters like fluff about as much as your Grandmother likes Justin Bieber.

    Sincerely,
    A non-profit PR person

  • brian3951

    Eaterie, going forward, deliverable. stepping up to the plate, a winner. A good story doesn’t need embellishment.

  • Bonnie Russell

    Seldom write a press release, but I can tell a story, And provide documentation. Unfortunately media seldom strays from the norm in content, which is the difference in market based media, and journalism.

  • Blake Murdoch

    “We wish them well…”

    As if.

  • Norman Smit

    The word ‘engagement’ can have value if it is used with verifiable metrics and those metrics are newsworthy. In this regard, engagement then becomes something a community can be shown to be doing or supporting, which may actually be the pitch.

  • NZ Sue

    I’ve been 23 years in print media, the past nine as a newspaper editor.Now I’m enjoying PR and marketing. The word “unique” was my most common loathe, and “writers” who use exclamations. However, the most common put-off now are NZ companies sending me “breaking news” when it’s not, and using American spelling for articles in the NZ-only magazine I co-ordinate.

  • Eliza

    As a former journalist, I agree with adding the 5 W’s and a contact at the top of the release. I call them “Quick Hits.” The journalist can then pick up this info and drop them in a calendar listing if that is appropriate.

  • Roger

    I don’t know, given the number of times people commenting suggest repellent words others have already added, you PR professionals are reading this thread as closely as you expect journalists to read your press releases ;)

  • JoeB

    When you’re just a middle man in the process, no one cares what words journos like or not. Sorry, but its the truth, as hinted at by other comments on here. Try “utilizing” journo qualifications and providing a more rounded service.

  • Pete Duncan

    Major

  • Amanda Reekie

    Some journos are not much better. Far too many building trade headlines use the words ‘scoop’ ‘bag’and ‘slate’ to try to generate excitement for an otherwise boring story.

  • Frank Buhrman

    This is an old complaint, but people still begin releases with, “Beauregard Smith, President/CEO of ABC Company, is pleased/proud/excited to announce . . .” Years ago, an editor told me that, if the name if the CEO (or company) is more important than the news itself, that news isn’t worth reading. That’s still true. In a lead sentence, every word has to justify its placement.

  • rsmithing

    Impactful. *shudders*

  • Susan Pepperdine

    Speaking of “unparalleled,” I once received a letter from Bacon’s clipping service touting their “unparalled” accuracy. They didn’t include spelling accuracy, I guess.

  • Nikki Withington

    “First annual”

    Institutions do not have feelings. People do.

  • Mark Riley

    The key to getting a press release covered is for it to not SOUND like a press release. Don’t write with the exclusive goal of making your client happy; write for the reporter’s audience. That means you need to give the public a reason to care about what you are telling them. You can do this by focusing on people or institutions that will be helped as a result of whatever action precipitated the release. We are all so overcommunicated now, it’s easy to let the ‘ignore’ filters kick in. Resetting that particular ‘circuit breaker’ is essential, and you do it by giving the reader a reason to care. Two books you should always keep close at hand are Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and Herschel G. Lewis’s “On the Art Of Writing Copy”. I have found these two books to be immensely helpful (the contents of Strunk and White’s book are also available online).

  • Julia Coleman

    Perhaps an article on words that might be encouraged would be more educational! Very hard to second-guess all of people’s pet prejudices! (And I admit to many!)

  • Linda Litwack

    While we are discussing overused phrases, how about the misuse of “comprise” as in “…is comprised of”? “Comprise” is a concise, transitive verb, meaning “include”. You can’t say “something is included of”, but you can say something comprises…”

  • ghayes

    Consider substituting most laudatory adjectives/phrasingwith facts, which when accurate tend to speak for themselves. Using the facts instead should also lead to shorter, more impactful copy. Award committees, like those parties who would publish stories, want more with less.

  • Neeks

    “iconic”

    rarely true.

  • DW

    You have a point, Julia C. So many words to leave out – sooooo, what to leave in? Still, this is great info. Thanks.

  • Niki

    There’s always “state of the art” and “innovative.”

    Along with “we are excited,” I’d add:
    “we’re proud”
    “we’re thrilled”
    “we’re honored”

  • Rhoda Gelman

    To: Mark Riley: My client’s tell me that I write like I talk: from the heart. I do not like cliches, especially, ‘trust me.’ Of course when we write press releases, we must provide the story and or details in a way that the media and or reporter will care and be interested. Thank you very much for your suggestions and the books. I feel positive and motivated to change some of my style. Happy New Year.

  • Peter Devine

    My Favourite is when a deal in clinched and firms say they have just achieved a record ‘win’. Where did that one come from?

  • Julian Horowitz

    But we are very excited to have worked to secure engagements in the fastest-growing market of high-performance technology leading to incredibly powerful solutions with unparalleled resource utilization.

  • Andrew Wessels

    How about “outside the box?” If everything is outside the box, is there anything of substance in the box? And, if not, why have a box at all?

  • Stewart McIntosh

    If I was a techie type I’d invent a software called ‘delete delight’. Most press releases in Scotland use the words ‘We’re delighted to announce . . .’ (insert some some footling piece of new business). We’re all pleased when we win new business, but press releases would increase their chances of publication if they told us something about what the latest deal means for the market, rather than the boost it gave to the MD’s ego.

  • Marty Rabkin

    All of the above are right on the money. IMO, too too many PR people cave in to their clients’ trite demands, often copying what others have done, not realizing they’re insulting media who have to read these releases, demeaning themselves through a lack of backbone, if not professional standards and ethics. Anyone can write a basic PR by the numbers, falling back on “say nothing” words and phrases – and hyperbole. I cannot tell you how many itmes clients have tried to force me into using “We are thrilled” or “We are excited” and make every effort to strike any color from their quotes. Client quotes, for example, can be an excellent way to further explain your “news” story, give color and turn that quote potentially into a possible sound bite, the last often appreciated by a number of reporters and editors I deal with. So, going forward, be the first to announce, stand up and be unsurpassed, incredible, impactful, award-winning, the world’s leading, fastest-growing, powerful, unparalleled, high-performance solution delivering a new paradigm never before seen anywhere in the world. Happy New Year.

  • Alex

    industry-leading, win-win, left of hyphen-right of hyphen.

    I am an ex-broadcast guy but print style seems best suited for releases: the graph is the W’s, and whatever follows is the details.

    If the reader is not interested by the beginning, what follows is immaterial. Am I wrong?

  • Karen Ellington

    “Revolutionary”

  • Firoze Munzeer

    Totally agree and exasperating. Every single release from one particular airline’s opening sentence starts with “……”, the fastest growing airline. Another word I would like to add a consistent word used by hoteliers ‘mouth-watering’. Regarding a minor achievement the consistent phrase: ‘in the history of…’

  • Julie Ann Williamson

    Marty Rabkin (post #68) is correct. PR professionals, many of whom have journalism backgrounds, need to take the time to put some originality into their words, even if it’s an everyday press release. And likewise, someone one the other end should be skilled enough to edit out the BS, redundancies and overused phrases.

  • Greg

    Unique, game-changing, at the end of the day, very (anything), anything that provides an undefined qualifier (very happy, etc.)

  • Eduardo Cue

    Moving forward. Please, please, please stop using this term.

  • Matt Nagel

    Innovative, disruptive.

  • Michael F Kelly

    We have a process called Meaning Mapping where we take a document (release, article, book, speech, etc. and document the core meaning of it. How many of these words do you think end up on the ‘core meaning’ result? Nearly zero, that’s right.
    And that is just what people do with fluff, jargon and cliches. They look for meaning and if they dont get it, will eventually add you to the spam filter.

  • Damon Frith

    My favourite is the press release with one or more acronym that are not even fully extended in the first instance – never assume knowledge

  • Michael F Kelly

    Here’s the words so far not to use…
    What patterns are there here?
    1. right-sizing means layoffs or firings
    2. solution
    3. leverage
    4. authentic
    5. breakthrough
    6. today, as in announced today
    7. seamless
    8. end-to-end
    9. meeting customers specific needs
    10. disruptive
    11. most unique
    12. we are excited
    13. truly innovative
    14. added value
    15. exciting
    16. amazing
    17. we’ll get back to you on that
    18. synergy
    19. win-win
    20. revolutionary
    21. cutting edge
    22. forget press releases, use target story pitches
    23. thrilled
    24. meaningless quote
    25. awesome
    26. as the …
    27. we’re delighted
    28. (undefined terms and acronyms)
    The LinkedIn article where this was referenced had another 187 comments. Want to see their list?

  • marilde motta

    “with the request to publish it”, sometimes there are still PR using this absurd sentence