Jan 13, 2016

Grammar Hammer: 5 Words to Stop Using in Your Writing

Words to stop using in pr and marketing 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.

buyer content strategy checklist

Price Point

Price point = cost, price, budget. I refer you to Thomas Jefferson, who said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”


“Robust” hit the words-we-should-stop-using circuit back in 2013, along with “selfie” and “twerk,” and yet, the use of robust is as robust as ever.

Data, strategies, engagement, distribution can all be described in business circles as “robust.” If you really want to bring this into sharp focus, consult your thesaurus for synonyms for “robust.”

I immediately thought of lumberjacks because of suggested words like “hefty,” “husky,” “able-bodied,” “brawny,” “rugged,” etc. Consider using “potent,” “powerful” or another word to describe the breadth and strength you believe is so robust.


Although “leverage” originated as a noun, it has found popularity as a verb in B2B and financial content.

There are often better ways to get your point across. Think about the influence, the power, the advantage, or the authority that you’re trying to communicate. Or keep it simple and use the word “use.”

Bonus word: So

So, I actually dedicated an entire Grammar Hammer column to this word and still catch myself using it too often.

It goes to show you — even the Grammar Hammer is guilty of word abuse.

So, next time you’re working on a piece of content, invite your key stakeholders to have a conversation about it to leverage your piece of content against the right audiences to yield robust results at a fair price point.

Want more writing dos and don’ts? Download PR Newswire’s Buyer 2.0 Content Strategy Checklist for tips on planning content that gets noticed for the right reasons.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services with more than 20 years’ experience counseling brands on their content. She also authors Beyond PR’s long-running Grammar Hammer series. Follow Cathy on Twitter @cathyspicer and tweet her your #grammargripes.

5 Comments on Blog Post Title

­ Kevin 15:16 EST on Jan 13, 2016

So the robust price point of the stake holder’s conversation was leveraged by my lack of grammar education. I still thick it’s a good read Cathy

­ Brenda 16:24 EST on Jan 16, 2016

You read my mind, Kathy. I’m in local government and some of my coworkers use these words relentlessly. One of them likes the word "per," and often uses it incorrectly. Like…I’m contacting you per the article you wrote yesterday. Aargghh!!

­ helpfulpapers.com 10:29 EST on Feb 3, 2016

Thanks for your post Catherine! It’s of great help to me.

­ Sam 11:23 EST on Feb 8, 2016

The stakeholders have decided the price point is decided by the general population based on demand. Fair price point is decided by the audience based on their calculated and graphed by leveraging one designated target audio against another. It is very rare for key stakeholders to complain when the data shows results and not common sense.

­ Vernon Woodin 14:09 EDT on Jul 19, 2016

Anytime you get to the point of counting how many times someone said the same word throughout the course of a conversation or writing, then it is probably a good candidate for this list. That being said, I think "basically" should be on this list.

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