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Words to Retire in 2012

Last year’s post about 10 words to retire in 2011 spurred so much debate among us PR folks that we felt compelled to update it with a throng of words that we firmly believe need a permanent “timeout” or a creative refresh in 2012.

Fellow communicators – we are wordsmiths at our core, so consider this a call to arms!

Let’s take some lessons and inspiration from the literary world to come up with better and more descriptive words. Unexpected, creative and imaginative words – and let’s not forget muscular verbs – will help our press releases, pitches, tweets and other content cut through the morass of bland, jargon-filled marketing content. Our prose needs to get the attention it – and our clients – deserve. After all, we want to write content that people will read and share.

Some of this year’s candidate words are still too corporate and vacuous. Many are overused, abused and lack substance, and some were hip in 2011 but have run their course. Without further ado, here’s our list.


  • Premier
  • Leverage
  • Excited/thrilled/delighted (should be stricken from all press release quotes – please)
  • Web 2.0
  • End-user
  • Productize
  • Holistic
  • Integrated
  • Digerati
  • Just sayin’
  • LOL, FML, OMG, Gr8
  • Viral
  • Fail
  • Winning

Since originally publishing this post, several of you in the fields of editing, PR, marketing and TV journalism have nominated the words you are fed up with via Twitter (#wordsweshouldretire) and Facebook. Thanks for your contributions  and keep them coming! Here are the new additions which include some old favorites and some newbies:


  • Transparency
  • Cloud-based
  • Next-generation
  • Game-changing
  • Incentivize/monetize/strategize
  • Occupy
  • Gamification
  • Flat-out
  • Surreal
  • Deja vu all over again
  • [insert noun] junkie
  • Austerity
  • Whatever
  • Swag

Apparently, we are not the only people concerned with proper writing. The editors at The Boston Globe take their words seriously too. Journalists there have been encouraged to avoid using “announce,” “ongoing” and “impact” as verbs and “seeing” as in “the company is seeing soaring profits.” (Hint: It’s passive construction; better to say “company profits are soaring.”)

PR professionals and reporters are not alone in this quest for improving our semantic vaults. Here are some links to other words you might want to think twice about using, starting today. And be sure to let us know of any other words that you think deserve retirement in 2012.


Read more from Samantha McGarry
  • Gwen

    transparent and transparency

  • Samantha McGarry

    Thx Gwen, added to the list!

  • Gale

    Agree with “Fail” and “Winning”….I might add the mash-up of “innovation” with any word! Best.Suggestion.Ever.(Realize that suggestion is not a word, but is there a word for doing that?)

  • Samantha McGarry

    Great. Suggestions. Gale. Thx

  • Matt

    In no particular order:

    • Samantha McGarry

      I totally agree with solution – overused and terribly vague. but it’s also one of those for which there appears to be no alternative. Unless you have a solution?

  • Matt Poepsel

    I’d like to throw “monetize” and “consumerize” into the mix. In fact, if you find yourself wanting to -ize anything that hasn’t already been -ized, you should probably reconsider.

    • Samantha McGarry

      Oh I agree, that’s why I put productize in the original list. And happily added incentivize. Socialize. Monetize. Consumerize. All corporate speak. I’d prefer we state the actual meaning, even if it means using 2-3 words, rather than make-up these ‘ize’ words. Monetize = make money from.

  • Tim Allik

    These are wearing a bit thin:

    Passionate about [blank]
    [blank] junkie

    • Samantha McGarry

      Hmmm, I still like the phrase “passionate about” as long as it is used sincerely. Junkie is an odd word for sure – I actually think it stands out, can make an impact if not overused.

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