Words that make you go ‘Grrrrr’

Watch out, you might me sesquipedalian. Click image for source.

Watch out, you might be sesquipedalian. Click image for source.

The communications world never ceases to amaze me. The very people who put together amazing programmes for clients seem unable to do this for themselves.

Perhaps this is why they get such a bad rap. The ‘PR is crap’ meme circulates the web every few months, as does the ‘Advertising is dead’ meme. Maybe they should make like the Magicicada and come around according to prime numbers to avoid hitting each other.

But they don’t help themselves by wrapping simplicity up in complexity. So, here is a list that I might start compiling – who knows, maybe even to replace the PR Friendly Index which I just cannot be arsed to maintain any more – of ‘word compression’ techniques. Or, to put it another way, why use three words when one word will do?

Here are three I prepared earlier:

  • In order to – to
  • Be able to – can
  • Multiplicity of – many

So instead of saying “We are able to leverage a multiplicity of skills in our stakeholder platform”, how about saying “We can leverage many skills in our stakeholder platform.”

I know what you’re thinking. Eek! He said leverage! And stakeholder! And platform!

For many PR/general comms people these are ‘the words you should use’. Fresh-faced graduates love using them because it makes them sound cool. Unfortunately they then grow up in PR still using these words which, let’s face it, hardly anyone else uses. When I started, I didn’t know what leverage meant. I wasn’t entirely sure what T. Blair meant when he talked about a stakeholder society (neither was he, I suspect). And I had great difficulty envisaging a message platform. Was it like an oil rig perhaps?

So, for PR/comms specifically, how about this:

  • Leverage – use
  • Platform – programme
  • Stakeholders – people

See what I mean? Now we can say “We can use many skills in our programme.” We don’t even need to use the word stakeholder here, right?

Like I said, this might become a PR/comms jargon-busting list. I’d love to know if anyone else has favourite ‘angry’ words – that is, words that make them angry just by their existence – especially if they have antidotes. If not, maybe I’ll be able to think of one. Let’s see.

7 thoughts on “Words that make you go ‘Grrrrr’

  1. Hi Brendan,

    Chris Lake wrote something similar on the Econsultancy blog called Leveraging the Synergies .

    It was not just about word compression but more about the awful phrases that you frequently see in marketing literature, web copy and press releases. It’s much wider than a PR industry issue…believe me.

    My favourites from this article and the comments were:

    ‘cradle to grave’
    ‘paradigm shift’
    ‘scope creep’

    Sound more like a series of slasher movies.

    Looking forward to seeing the comms jargon busting list grow.



  2. Excellent! Love those – although I’m not sure I can include them in my list if they’ve already been listed. Perhaps I could think of single word replacements though?

  3. Great post. One of the terms I’ve hated the most through working in PR has been the term ‘media outreach’ – as if you are ‘reaching out’ and ‘helping’ the media by ‘feeding’ them stories.

    I used to report to my Canadian director who used this term so frequently she should have it engarved in her tombstone

    The other that I’ve noticed A LOT of comms professionals using tirelessly is the word ‘caveat’ which seems to be an exclusive term to PR people..

  4. Great blog (and I love the idea of a list). My pet hate is ‘utilize’. Why not ‘use’? Oh, and ‘enable’, made worse if in a sentence that includes ‘a business enabler’.

  5. The word that came to mind when I was reading your post was”utilize”. When I scrolled down to read the comments I discovered I’m not the only one who can’t stand how this word is used.

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