More Words and Phrases for PR Folks to Avoid

garbage-trash-canA recent blog post by my colleague Diane Schwartz, titled, “9 Words to Avoid Saying Today,” struck a chord with communication pros. Using phrases such as “um,” and “you know” won’t do you any favors when you’re trying to impress the CEO or a prospective client.

With that in mind, we chose to cull some of the responses from readers regarding other words and/or phrases that PR pros should dutifully avoid.

For example, Jonathan McGrain would toss “absolutely” onto the list, adding (correctly) that it’s an unnecessary substitute for “yes.”

Another response we like comes from Debra Bouche, who recommended that PR pros lose the term “Whatever,” which, when intoned, makes otherwise intelligent people sound like a spoiled teenager suffering from an terminal case of ennui.

We’re also in total agreement with Joanna Ormesher and Joan Stewart, both of whom asked that we add “awesome” to the list of verboten terms.

Once used to adequately describe monumental events such as, say, giving birth or winning a month-long triathlon, “awesome” has been so watered down in recent years as to now be devoid of any meaning.

To wit, we recall The Simpsons episode when Otto the bus driver describes everything in Springfield proper as “awesome” before looking at the palm of his hand and, once again, saying, “Look at my hand, that’s awesome!”

So, are we in agreement to put the term “awesome” to pasture? And do you have any other words or phrases that would behoove PR pros to banish once and for all?

Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1



About Matthew Schwartz

Group Editor, PR News: Matthew Schwartz is group editor of PR News, the leading source of trends, how-to content and best practices for PR professionals. Matthew leads the editorial strategy for PR News’ premium content products—including its weekly newsletter—and for its digital presence. Matthew was editor of PR News from 2003-2005. Prior to returning to PR News, Matthew was a reporter for Crain’s BtoB and Media Business magazines, where he covered business marketers and media companies. He was also editor of BMA Buzz, a biweekly email newsletter covering B2B marketing, advertising and social media, and contributing writer to Advertising Age Custom. Matthew has helped to launch blogs on behalf of ZoomInfo and direct marketing agency The Kern Organization. He also spent a few years in cable-news precincts, working as a writer/producer at CNN and Fox News Channel.

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  • moonbooties

    This is dumb

  • richroberts1

    Another suggestion: Kill the ubiquitous and obnoxious use of “Really?” (a la Seth Myers and Amy Poehler) to signal disagreement.

  • Chris Cullen

    This may seem narrow, Rich Roberts will understand, “conveniently located” appears in every piece of restaurant or hotel collateral. How is that possible, and convenient to whom?

  • Pamela Rice

    Ending a sentence with the word ‘so…’ it begs the question ‘what’ and ‘so what’ is not a question one wants asked when speaking with anyone of relevance.

    • Portlandgurl

      Also – when did everyone decide to start their sentences with “so”. . .? “So, the way this works is. . .”

  • michele

    Words of corporate “speak” that are overused to death: “lock and load,” (where did I leave my Magnum?), “in my wheelhouse,” “at the end of the day,” and others too numerous to mention. In keeping with Chris Cullen’s comment — “just 20 minutes from downtown” in every residential development brochure and “unique” another favorite of real estate developers and a lot of other folks…

  • J. Rice

    PR pros should omit the word “excited” from their vocabulary. Particularly when it comes to crafting the company/client quote in a press release (e.g., “We are very excited about…”). While I thought this became a standard rule for the PR professional years ago, I am surprised at often I continue to see this word used in press release quotes. Get creative, get crafty, get a Thesaurus and find a replacement word or phrase that will elevate your prose. You owe it to your press release, your client and the media. #steppingoffsoapboxnow :)

  • Ipswich Academy

    Please don’t use “brand new” and, for me, the worst is “Well done you” – surely it should just be “Well done”?

  • Charlotte Lehan

    Any sort of tech support or instructions that begin the directions with “just” or “simply”. If it was so simple I wouldn’t be turning to tech support for the answer. They might as well start by saying, “As any simpleton would know . . .”

    • Lucia Davis

      Hahaha spot on, Charlotte! So true: That language only serves to infuriate me further…

      • Charlotte Lehan

        Product manuals tend to do this a lot. “It’s easy
        to print with your new printer. Just follow these 15 simple steps: ” Apparently written by Little Mary Sunshine over in Engineering. Technical writing may not be considered PR
        exactly, but it’s often the place where the public relates directly with the product.

  • Pingback: Words to avoid in formal writing | Rachel Andrea Ko Go

  • Chal

    Can we start with avoiding “folks”? It comes off as a desperate attempt to be amiable and is too often used in politics.