The Most Annoying Sayings: The Epic PR News List

Diane Schwartz

There are some topics that excite people no matter the time of day or day of week—and annoying sayings and overused words are among them. When I posted a PR News blog a few months ago about the “most annoying sayings,” I was hoping to contribute to the body of knowledge while commiserating with my fellow communicators and wordsmiths.

Roughly 60 blog readers contributed to the list, which is not exactly “epic” (overused word #654) but was enough to warrant an aggregation for our loyal readers, a handy list to refer to “at the end of the day” (possibly the most annoying saying currently trending).

A few readers took issue with the list, noting that sayings such as “true that” and “it’s like boiling the ocean” help people relate to one another and are helpful rather than annoying. You can’t please everyone, and the list below is an objective, unedited listing with further user-generated venting in parentheses. Please chime in if we missed something.

  • “It is what it is.”  (It is annoying)

  • “I personally feel.”  (redundant, redundant)

  •  “You need to be more passionate.” (You can’t make people feel passionate)

  • The word “social” as a noun, as in, “Acme does social really well.”  (Being social means having friends, not selling product.)

  • “I’m passionate about _________.”  (Really? Well lucky you. Guess what? I work for a living! )

  • “I’m a ____________ junkie.”  (Since when is addiction a virtue?)

  • “I’m just doing what I’m doing.”  (Redundancy will be the death of me.)

  • “We need to own social media.” (Um, the public owns social media. What you really mean is you need to tie your social media efforts to a bottom line, be it financial, social good or reputation.)

  • Curation

  • News-jacking

  • When young people say “Well in the old days…”   (Really? You’ve been around for 20-something years. The “old days” for you consisted of an era before social networking boomed and boy bands were the hot topic.)

  • Guru

  • “Hit the ground running”

  • “Going forward”  (Meaning “from now on” as if you could also dictate past behavior)

  • “No offense”  (Which means “I am about to offend you.”)

  • “I’m confused”  (Which means “You’re confused and I am going to set you straight.”)

  • Ideation

  • “Circle back”  (Which means to bring your Conestoga wagon back into a circle.)

  • Thought leadership

  • “True that.”  

  • “With all due respect…”  (Hearing that phrase, buckle-up: The words that follow will certainly bear no relation to “respect” or any recognized synonym.)

  • “At any rate:”  (It is so seldom used in connection with a literal rate of any sort.)

  • “Game on.”

  • Winning

  • “To make a long story short” (already makes your story six words longer.)

  • Meh  (Thank you for your in-depth contribution to the conversation that really helps us solve the problem. Now, please, get back to your texting.)

  • “I don’t hate that idea.”  (Otherwise known as “let’s think about that more.”)

  • “We want to be in high-profile media”  (…said everyone on earth that wants to be in any media.)

  • “How should we spin this?”

  • “We need to be strategic.” (“Strategy” and “strategic” are so overused; no one explains what they mean by this, what the plan of action is or the tactics we’ll use to achieve the goal.)

  • “Let’s take a step back.” (It’s an early indicator that you are dealing with a conservative organization where innovation is outside their comfort zone.)

  • “Let’s not re-invent the wheel…”

  • “Value proposition”

  • “Let’s get out in front of it…”

  • “Where the rubber meets the road…”

  • Game time

  • Irregardless

  • Anyways

  • Frankly …

  • Honestly …

  • Don’t take this the wrong way/personally …

  • Incentivize

  • Ideate

  • “Out-of-the-box thinking”

  • “If you will”

  • Arrrrrrggggggg!

  • Open the kimono (creepy)

  • Drink the Kool-Aid

  • Move the needle

  • Let’s talk offline

  • Boil the ocean

  • Awesome

  • Ramp up. Tee up. Synch up. (Throw up.)

  • Push back

  • Thought starter

  • Scalable

  • Factoids

  • Synergy

  • Run it up the flagpole and see how it flies.

  • Skin in the game

  • Ping

  • Bandwidth

  • Hard stop

  • “Let’s flesh/flush this out.” I’ve heard it both ways, and both make me cringe.

  • “Perfect!” (Used in response to a question answered, such as “Would you like to see the wine list?”)

  • “We have a horse in this race.” (Less painful than one’s own skin the game, but same principle.)

  • “Under the radar” (I understand the need for stealth at times, but it can cause mid-air collision?)

  • “We will be ramping up soon, so be ready!”

  • Kill two birds with one stone (poor birds)

  • Self-starter

  • 24/7

  • Bada-bing!

  • Leverage

  • Give 110%  (What is wrong with your math?)

  • Win-win

  • Net-net

  • My bad

  • “In the weeds.”  

  • “Put on your big girl panties.”

  • I also think way too many trains have left the station and never mind how many people have been thrown under the bus.

  • Utilizing

  • “Transparency”  (Those who use this term are anything but transparent.)

  • “Balls to the walls.” (What does this really mean? Maybe I don’t want to know.*)

*[Editor’s Note: a PR News blog reader Brad Fisher answered that question on August 9th: “Balls to the wall” is actually a WWII era aviation term. It means pushing the throttle (which is topped by a round grip that fits in the palm) all the way forward (wide open) or toward the firewall (assuming the engine is in front of the cockpit). So it means going full throttle. In context, it would be contraindicated to put one’s gonads into a wall if you wanted to get anything done.”]

Diane Schwartz is the Senior VP & Group Publisher of PR News. You can follow her on Twitter @dianeschwartz. 

61 responses to “The Most Annoying Sayings: The Epic PR News List

  1. Set the table or reset the table.

    Really anything having to do with a table. It is not a dinner party, it is business.

  2. Untimely death. (When is death ever timely?)

    Grassroots effort.

    Hyperlocal. (It’s not so much the term as the meaning behind it. Community newspapers have subsisted on being “hyperlocal,” but dailies are removing themselves from relevancy by not even offering a mix of issues outside their coverage area. If I have to go to CNN for news on the debate, why do I care about Aunt Bessie’s five-legged cow?)

  3. Drives me CRAZY when people say “flush out” (hunting term meaning to scare prey out into the open for a better shot instead) of what they really mean, to “flesh out,” to build up/out, make more complete, etc.

  4. Great list.
    “Balls to the wall” means running at full throttle. Comes from the configuration of steam engine governors with ball-shaped weights that lifted up and out from a spinning vertical shaft when the speed increased

  5. Truth is, all of these are simply cliches – they just happen to be newer cliches than the ones we grew up with, and maybe are more annoying for that reason. Not all cliches are bad in all situations – when used accurately in a correct context, even a cliche can be a bridge-builder. (Oops.)

  6. Language continues to live and breathe, right under our very noses. There is no right or wrong, just a lot of poor writers and speakers in the world. There are some better ones and, of course, a few exceptional ones. Sometimes the best among them will drop an irritating “annoying saying” and walk away chuckling to him or her self, knowing they have intentionally muddied the waters and confused the media shaped minds of members of the herd. Most, however, prefer to speak and write in plain, clear English, get the job done, and move on. Just sayin’ …

  7. Has “Just sayin’…” made any lists? A wimpy way of trying to duck responsibility for a knowingly provocative comment!

  8. Did I miss “virtually?” As in virtually foolproof (it will screw up) and virtually indestructible (it will break).

  9. “Let’s agree to disagree.” (Let’s give up and ignore the problem. You good with that?”

  10. Common usage of the term “BTTW” in minority communities “back in the day” (60’s) referred to how one was ‘asked’ to stand when questioned by local authorities. Cultural differences matter.

  11. “Kill it,” commonly used by sales managers who want to achieve their goals, as in “go kill it,” or “we’re killing it!” Since when is killing someone or something okay? Very offensive.

  12. “The conversation” (start, etc.): referring to goading others into submitting opinions via email, social media, etc., thus demonstrating how attuned is “the conversation” initiator to current social media trends.

  13. Going forward, I personally feel confused about the need to be strategic when it comes to cliches. Where would we be without them? There’d be no Kool Aid or out of the box thinking and we certainly wouldn’t be able to leverage those all important win-wins. I know, you’re probably thinking “no problem.”

  14. how about omg! (but now I’m scared to say ANYthing lest it be interpreted as trite. Oh no!…what to DO?)

  15. REACH OUT. Taking Temperatures as in “I’m going to reach out to John, take his temperature, and see if he’s ready to move.

  16. I have a few:
    – old school/retro
    – I mean REAL-ly? REAL-ly?
    – pinspiration/pinspired
    – Stick a pin it that – we’ll address it later

  17. Football garbage verbiage can be just as annoying:
    1. He did a really good job.(He’s playing; it ain’t a real job) 2. “Redemption” (save some words for things that matter, like faith and doing good deeds, which are outside the realm of football. 3. They like to throw the football. (Really, is it really a football they’re playing football with?)

  18. 17. “Wrapped around the axle,” meaning all tied up, which I’ve really only heard used by an old New Hampsha type.

  19. “Robust” — It’s so, like, four years old, when everybody at Amway Marketing was saying it.

  20. I’m with Jim (#23), but more specifically, I’m tired of hearing “absolutely” used as a synonym for “yes.” (“Are you coming to the party?” “Absolutely!”)

  21. “Game changer” or “game changing,” especially since it never is.

  22. “You gotta do what you gotta do” (Routinely used as an excuse to do things that no, you really don’t need to do.)

  23. “It’s all good!” – when stated, nothing is good but the speaker is too passive to address the issue.

  24. “But wait…there’s more” and “Have we got the deal for you!” (I’ll be the judge of weather you have deal or not)

  25. “Stay at the top of your game” Honestly, I personally feel we need to circle back to that one. What are you really saying that your satisfied and content with where your game is now? Getting better isn’t and option because your already so good, lets just keep you here? Do games even have tops? or bottoms? I’m confused.

  26. Cannot think of anything right away, to add to your collection.
    But I do get irritated at times when people try to pass off language used in social chats under the garb of universal acceptance.
    In the least, it sounds rude.

  27. Thankfully my two personal pet peeves are on this list: synergy and value-proposition. I admit that I was on the value proposition train a few years ago but it’s SO over-used and when I ask (out of frustration) what it means, most people give me a blank look. The people who know what it means usually aren’t the ones using the term.

    That being said, there are a few things on this list that I say…and I’ll probably keep saying.

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