Journalists Dish: Most Annoying Words or Phrases Used in News Releases

heidi smith communicationsIn my quest to purge the public relations profession of habits that annoy journalists, I invited some editors and reporters to unload on news release writers.

“What are the most annoying words or phrases used in news releases?” I asked. “Think of content that makes your eyes roll and your finger hover over the delete button.”

Not surprisingly, the journalists were immediately forthcoming. It seems that no one ever asks their opinion on such matters, and since they will not be identified, the respondents were as blunt as they were generous in commenting.


The Top Offenders

  • “State of the art”
  • “Prestigious award” (when it really isn’t)
  • “Your” when it should be “you’re”
  • "Very unique” is worse than the redundant “Most unique,” it’s contradictory.
  • Releases that are “proud to announce”
  • Modifiers intended to puff up the client, such as “impressive” credentials or “superbly” prepared
  • Putting “press release” in the subject line. That one makes me bonkers. I’ll often delete these. I don’t have the time to wade through a release to figure out what the story is.
  • Every kind of marketing or high-tech mumbo jumbo trying to make them sound impressive. “Leverage” is a (least) favorite.
  • Using nouns as verbs. "Partner" and "leverage" are equally despised.
  • The superlative-spewing writing of real estate companies to describe a property for sale: essence of old world craftsmanship, privacy unsurpassed. Endless views. Most admired, splendid, magical, true tropical paradise, breathtaking. You get the picture.
  • Using “that” to refer to a person.
  • “Synergies”
  • “Your local area” (just give me the town where the person or business is located)
  • “Laser-focused”, “laser-point focused”
  • “Unique,” “urgent” and the most annoying of all: “BREAKING NEWS” in all caps like the President was just shot or something, then I open the email and an attorney won some award.

And the top offender? "A long release that I must read before determining it is completely bereft of news."

This is just a snapshot from a handful of journalists who review between 100 and 200 releases per week. Universally, they are well-disposed toward what one reporter described as “press releases that are calm, down to earth, use casual language and get straight to the point.”

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