Annual List of “Banned” Words

January 13, 2016 Max Bergen

shut_up-600x301.jpegBack in 1976 on New Year's Day, public relations director, Bill Rabe, of Lake Superior State University in Michigan started a tradition of compiling a list of words and phrases that it says should be banished in the new year. "Through the years, LSSU has received tens of thousands of nominations for the list, which now includes more than 800 entries," according to a statement from the school. "Word-watchers target pet peeves from everyday speech, as well as from the news, fields of education, technology, advertising, politics and more. A committee makes a final cut in late December."

While reasonable people may disagree about the value of each of the words and phrases, the list is nonetheless instructive for communications professionals. Words aren’t actually “banned,” of course, but you might want to think twice before using the ones that made the 2015 list. Including:


“So,” has the distinction for making the list a second time. In 1999 it made the list when used to amplify a feeling, as in, “I am SO not looking forward to work this week.” This time people are fed up with its use at the beginning of a sentence, as in, “So, don’t forget to bookmark this blog.” Nominators point out that the word serves no purpose and has the same impact as beginning a sentence with “um” or “like.”


This one may be hard for PR professionals to take. We are certainly guilty of encouraging our readers to, “join the conversation.” It turns out, not everyone is enamored with the phrase. One commenter pointed out, “It has replaced ‘discussion,’ ‘debate,’ ‘chat,’ ‘discourse,’ ‘argument,’ ‘lecture,’ ‘talk’….all of which can provide some context to the nature of the communication.”


This common term has been accused of using two words when one will do. What is the price point, after all, if not the price? Could it be that we are simply uncomfortable talking about the cost of our products and services?


We have to agree with one nominator who said that “secret sauce” is, “Usually used in a sentence explaining the ‘secret’ in excruciating public detail.” Yep, I’ve done that.


We find it interesting that this shortcut for “press release” or “press conference” was heard by enough people to make the list. Apparently this bit of industry jargon has made its way into enough circles to earn some push back.

We recommend checking out the entire list. If nothing else, it will give you some insight into words you might want to use with caution.


Previous Article
Top Tips for Using Instagram for PR
Top Tips for Using Instagram for PR

So far in our series on using social media for PR, we’ve covered Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Today we t...

Next Article
Make 2016 The Year You Redefine How You Measure Success
Make 2016 The Year You Redefine How You Measure Success

Legendary business management expert, Peter Ducker, is credited with the phrase, “What gets measured improv...