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July 14, 2007


Mike Keliher

The compulsion for people or organizations to refer to themselves as "leading" is generally quite absurd, but there's one that gets me even more: Every time I see the word "leverage" -- unless its in the context of physics -- I throw up a little in my mouth.


Maximized / maximum



Lisa Braithwaite

Ugh - leverage. And "monetize." That one really gets under my skin.

Nancy E. Schwartz

Dan, I can barely stand to read your list -- that's how on target it is. As a writer, and communications strategist, I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of repetition. After all, it works on audiences -- up to a point -- and then it backfires.

The question seems to be how to see that turning point. Any ideas?


Synergistic and its root, synergy, are the ones that make me gag the most. I have a client who leans on them and it drives me nuts.

Plus, both words always remind me of the 1980s cartoon Jem in which the main characters, an all-girl rock band, frequently said "Showtime, Synergy!" It definitely makes it harder to take seriously and documents that include those words.


Dan, I'm completely in agreement with you on these words. What I've been wondering about lately is the new (over)use of the phrases "speak to," as in "I can speak to that" and "cover off," as in "I think I've covered off answers to all of your questions." Where did this come from? I'd never heard it before I started working with a big company.


micro and macro anything drive me crazy.


Hi Dan, Thanks for the tip.

May I take the liberty of adding ‘end-to-end’ to your list. I think it is one of the most abused words in this part of the world.(APAC)


The ones I have banned from my startup company are:

"play", as in "it's a xxxx play".


"landscape", as in "we're in a competitive landscape".

Glenn (Customer Service Experience) Ross

Everyone please e-mail a link to this post to every consultant you know, especially the really famous ones.

The next time I hear "best-of-breed" used to describe anything but a dog, I'm going to scream!


I would add 'impact' to the list as it is horribly overused.


How about "out of pocket"? It doesn't even make sense!


Two comments:
1. I agree with Selfmademom about "out of pocket" -- I always thought it referred to expenses one paid from personal cash not the state of being unavailable.
2. I have to use "bandwidth" quite often because I write about satellite capacity, so when I see it in a context that doesn't have anything to do with Mbps or MHz, I get a little cranky.


You forgot my two favorites: 1. "socialize" used to describe getting others familiar with a proposal before bringing it for approval...drives me crazy!...and
2. "Reaching out" to someone - an HR favorite -why not just call them?


I came here because I find myself getting angry every time I see or herar the word 'leverage' - I think you use it more in the US than we do in the UK but it is a totally meaningless term to me. See this in a job description I have been sent...
responsibilities include 'Building highly leveraged sales tools' ! What nonsense !


I agree with every word here. However, I use 'proactive' quite often, as in proactive vs. reactive media inquiry. Really, I can't think of another word we'd use to describe that.

Locomotive Breath

Any of the "ize" words which take a noun and turn it into a verb. Some of these are pointed out above. The worst is "prioritize". This is a gripe found in places other than the business world.

EG Blue

What about "that being said" and "having said that"? Experts use that all the time right before they contradict themselves. And then they stutter, to sound knowledgeable I suppose. "But ... But ... But I ... I ... I have always said that the ... the ... the state of the economy, etc."

Michael b

Anyone have any innovative words to describe innovation?


To this list I have to add "learnings". It is NOT a word.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.

R.F. Scott

"To use them today and expect them to have an impact is simply laughable."
Good lord, that was written tongue-in-check I hope. Certainly it can't have escaped your notice that there is no case of a word being overused more than that of "impact" being employed as a metaphorically (as it most certainly is not a synonym) for the word "effect".

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Why "Word Wise"?

  • When I started to e-mail out a weekly writing tip to my Chicago colleagues at Edelman in 2002, little did I know how quickly how many people outside my office would start to request it. But word spread, as word is wont to do, and in 2006 the e-mail evolved into this blog. The tips, which are about grammar, usage and style, have a dual purpose – to remind my colleagues in PR of the power of the written word and, more generally, to support and perpetuate clear, concise, creative, honest, lively, stylish, compelling writing everywhere. In 2009 I started to add commentary about and links to stories and other blog posts related to the media, marketing, writing and, sometimes, just interesting stuff. For some reason, I also started Twittering (at SantowDan).