11 Words And Phrases I Hate (And You Should Never Use)

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on November 20, 2013 – 6:02 am

We all have words and phrases that hit our ears like chalk on a chalk board (or Kardashians on a television screen). Here are 11 of the words and phrases that make me want to let out a small yelp every time I hear them.

1. Touch points: This piece of PR jargon makes me cringe more than any other. “Touch points” make me think of something dirty, sleazy, or outright illegal. Please don’t touch me on my touch points. Just reach me through numerous channels.

2. Retarded: According to Google’s word usage chart (below), the word “retarded” has been going out of favor since the late 1970s. But as you can see, the word is still used more than it should be. This is especially grating in its common “you’re so retarded” usage, often referring to a friend who did something dumb. How about just using “you’re so dumb” instead? Heck, even “dumb shit” would be preferable.

Retarded Usage

3. “Sorry if you were offended”: This phrase is most commonly used by people who did something offensive. But instead of fully accepting the blame, they shirk it by shifting some of it onto you for having the audacity to take offense at their offensiveness. If you mess up, it’s far better to say “We did something offensive, and we apologize.” 

4. Whatever: This word is often used to dismiss a person or an idea. “She’s the one who wanted to do this stupid PR campaign in the first place. What-ever.” But it’s no longer the dismissive quality of the word that irks me; rather, it’s the complete lack of originality. Come on, people, dismissing a dumb idea is supposed to be fun, so stop relying on such a hackneyed term to do it.

5. You guys: This term is fine if you’re addressing a group of all boys or men. But if girls or women are present, it’s often considered rude. A waiter in a southern restaurant, for example, should expect a lower tip if he addresses his mixed-gender table as “you guys.”

6. Like: Can you, like, think of a word that, like, makes you, like, want to tear out your hair and stab your eardrums more? Like, whatever. And sorry if you are offended, you guys.

7. “I’m starving.” Unlikely. You’re probably just hungry. If you were starving, you would look like the poor soul in the picture below. Next time you’re tempted to say that you’re “starving,” remember her and remind yourself to say only that you’re feeling a bit peckish and would like something to eat.

starving chile

8. “I can’t.” Sometimes this phrase is true. But many times, frontline personnel say I can’t” when what they really mean is “I won’t.” “Sorry, we can’t let you return this defective product, since we only accept returns in the first 30 days and today is day 31.” “Sorry, we can’t let you substitute the cheddar cheese for the Muenster.”

9. Mucus: True story: When interviewing a young woman for a job many years ago, she followed a sneeze by explaining that her cold wasn’t contagious any longer since her mucus had changed back to its normal color and consistency. She didn’t get the job. (An exception for using this term is granted to the medical profession.)

10. Ninja: I have no problems with actual ninjas. Got that, ninja? Put the throwing stars down. But what the hell is a “PR Ninja” or a “Communications Ninja?” These phrases are becoming ubiquitous in people’s social media profiles lately, and they don’t make sense. According to Wikipedia, a “ninja” is defined, in part, as a mercenary. Are these PR professionals boasting about their willingness to take on any client, regardless of the ethics involved?

11. Spin: Yes, there’s such a thing as spin. But the term has been carelessly applied to many more PR campaigns than it should be, including ones that are completely aboveboard. There’s a big difference between strategic communications and “spin.”

What words make you cringe? Please enter your entries to the language hall of shame in the comments section below.

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

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    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

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    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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