16 Bad Words & Phrases to Banish from PR

by coach on August 25, 2010

Some words are awful and should be banished from PR

Can we talk? Or an even better question. Are people losing their ability to use intelligible words to write, speak or communicate? Particularly in PR, journalism, marketing or blogging.

I was just thinking about words. How we choose them. Use them. Occasionally abuse and sometimes reuse them without thinking or because we sometimes get lazy in our writing or our rush to meet impossible deadlines.

There’s one other category. Words I’m going to refuse to use. After this post of course!

Not only am I going to refuse to use them, they belong, as the Brits would say, in the refuse bin along with the press releases, emails and pitches that use them. Here’s my list of 16 bad words and tired phrases I’d like to banish from PR and the English language:

  1. Awesome: If I hear this one more time on a nearby cell phone, on Twitter, Facebook or by my local weather person I’m going to scream and then vomit. Loudly. Please. Let’s find another word that communicates our inner and outer joy and happiness.
  2. No Problem: Denise Baron has a very funny take on this at Ragan.com (while the link lasts).  It’s a growing “problem” in all its variations including: not a problem, no worries and Noooohprooooblemmmmm.
  3. Absolutely: Waiters, real estate agents, politicians and most people in the service industry (including PR people talking to clients?) have adopted this supercilious saying. They seem to think it’s a brilliant statement of their conviction to get something done for you. Fail.
  4. Back at you: Huh? What the hell is that supposed to mean? How sincere, how thoughtful, how hard to do better? Jeez.
  5. Yo: This all-purpose catchphrase is supposed to take the place of everything from hello, yes and “I hear you” to OK, “I’ll get right on it” and “yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.”  Why not just grunt? It would be more meaningful and less dismissive or derisive.
  6. Hoes, hounds and homies: Now I love Hip Hop more than most people, but since when did street poetry start invading resumes, news stories and media pitches. Maybe if you’re representin’ Lil Wayne, Kanye West or Snoop Dog? Puhleeese. While we’re throwing out these, let’s also dispose of dawg, word, da Bomb, fo sho, trippin and “wahd up?”
  7. Gurus: Usually applied to industry experts, billionaires, business leaders, bloggers and mostly self-proclaimed as in “social media guru”, PR guru, media training guru, etc. Folks, this went out in the late 1960’s with the Beatles and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Now, there was a real guru!
  8. Ninjas: Right up there with “gurus”, see point 7 above. Let’s say sayonara to this one now.
  9. Industry leader/industry-leading: Sez who? This one was tired at the height of the dot.com bubble. Unless you have a Gartner report, a McKinsey study or a Consumer Reports recommendation to back it up, don’t be throwing this phrase from home plate to 2nd base.
  10. Highly-touted: This chestnut was actually used in a news release headline by AllTopics which I wrote about in a recent post “News Release Was Not Ready for Prime Time.”  As above, “sez who?”
  11. Oh Mi Gawd: Usually shortened to OMG. PR newbies, please don’t use this in your next media email or pitch or you truly will run the risk of being outed in the Bad Pitch Blog.  And on the internet, just like all those words in your blog, Facebook posts and Tweets, they’re forever!
  12. Kick-Ass: I’m so tired of this marketing exhortation as in “learn how to generate kick-ass publicity” or “learn to write a kick-ass news release.” Classy. Right up there with wup-ass, get-er-done and revenuers while yer drinkin’ yer moonshine.
  13. First-Time Caller: A radio talk show staple, usually said breathlessly. We don’t care.
  14. Talking Points: Along with key messages and holding statements, this ménage a trois of inside PR chatter should be disposed of… quickly.
  15. 24/7: We get it and we’re tired of hearing about it. Everyone has deadlines and global competitors. Quit reminding us ALL THE TIME.
  16. Crisis/Opportunity: About 30 years ago, some wag, probably over ale at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club, Hong Kong thought it would be witty to inform us that the Chinese characters for danger and opportunity = crisis. This one was piled on by sloppy speechwriters and lazy journalists as a way to show how smart they were about Chinese culture and trade. They were wrong and you can learn why from Professor of Chinese Language and Literature Victor Mair. The crisis is over and the opportunity to use this dangerously wrong phrase is long gone. Let’s put this one to bed yesterday too.

Well, that’s 16 bad words/phrases or more and I could go on and on.

I guess what I’m saying is that words still matter. Enormously. If you’re in PR, communications, marketing, speaking or any of the other dark arts, remember that. Choose your words wisely. Use them carefully and with conviction.

As professor and PR “guru” Lisa Brock @teachpr recently tweeted: “Each word must weigh 100lbs, or it has to GO!” You will be known and judged by the words you choose and on the internet, they live forever.

OMG. I feel so awesome now! And that’s the last time you’ll hear it from me.

Another good read is Adam Sherk’s list of 100 of The Most Overused Buzzwords and Marketing Speak in Press Releases. That and lots more PR Writing Tips & Resources at The PR Coach.

If you’d like to share some of YOUR favorite Bad Words (not those ones), our Refuse Bin is open just below in the comments section.

Photo from Flickr © Darwin Bell

Author: Jeff Domansky

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