5 Words to Stop Using in Your Writing


5 Words to Stop Using in Your Writing

When you write for a living, it’s easy to get into a rut with the language you use. Although you may not notice you used the same word five times in your last press release or blog post, your readers will start to see a pattern.

It reminds me of an art history professor I had in college who used the word “sumptuous” in a medieval art lecture at least 18 times during a 40 minute class (yes, I counted).

Because we’ve all fallen prey to a favorite word’s siren song, there are words whose overuse becomes so prevalent they land on lists like Lake Superior State University’s “Banished Words List.”

Now in its 41st year, the list features entries culled from the tens of thousands of nominations LSSU has received over the years.

Reading over the 2016 list, I noticed many familiar phrases and was inspired to pick my own top five of overused words in PR and marketing. If you like to play poker, consider it the ultimate hand of words to fold.

However, here’s the conundrum of this and other lists like it: As with cards, there are certain contexts and situations where these words are appropriate to play. In other situations, though, we should limit their use because played too often, they lose their impact and meaning.

You don’t want your message to fall on deaf ears. Take the time to understand what these words mean to your audience and restrict your use to situations where another word won’t suffice.


This word shows up on so many lists because we use it to describe any interaction between two or more people.

If you’re inviting readers to “join the conversation” and don’t answer or acknowledge their comments, you’re not having a conversation.

When you ask for a conversation, make sure it’s a two-way street. One person speaks. Another person responds. Repeat. That is a conversation.

Additionally, some critics would argue we’ve become too sensitive to call certain conversations what they really are — a disagreement, a debate, an argument, a discussion, or a talk.

Being specific and honest about the “conversation” you’re about to have can go a long way with the other person. The final piece of a conversation is what goes unsaid. Make sure you actually take the time to listen.


Traditionally, a stakeholder was someone who had a vested interest in a situation or problem. Now this word is used to describe anyone from a customer to a decision maker and often goes hand in hand with words like “conversation” and “engagement.”

Stakeholders are critical players in the world of high-level marketing strategies. How you engage with your key stakeholders to get their buy-in on a concept will make or break your campaign.

However, when I talk to anyone outside of a marketing circle, the only stakeholders they’ve heard of hunt vampires.

When you’re tempted to use the word “stakeholder,” reflect on whom you’re talking to or about. Are they colleagues, customers, the community, business partners, bosses? Then decide whether there’s a more specific way to reference them.

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