With awards season right around the corner, the end of the year is a special time for all of us in the PR industry to reflect on the year’s successes. It’s also a time to try to forget 12 months’ worth of jargon that made us all wish it was acceptable to wear noise-canceling headphones around the office. 

Rather than create a list of the terms that defined 2013, I’ve opted for a list of terms we’d be happiest to see disappear in 2014. And because jargon comes in a grab bag of horrible rather than a uniform part of speech, it made sense to sort them and select the worst from each category. Let the cringing begin. 

Most overused 

Innovation/Innovative 

Cringe-inducing context: “This email marketing campaign is so innovative.” 

“Innovative” is easily the most overused word of the year. We live in a fast-paced world where technology is developing faster than ever. So granted, there is a lot of innovation. 

However, things have gotten way out of hand, to the point where “innovative” has become the participation trophy of campaign descriptors. We need to collectively step back and reevaluate what innovation means. Hologram Tupac is innovative. Changing your logo from serif to sans-serif is not. 

What to say instead: new

Worst portmanteau 

Pinfluencer 

Cringe-inducing context: “Let’s get a few pinfluencers to repin our content!” 

I never thought anything could overtake “guesstimate” as the crown jewel of portmanteaus that make me want to repeatedly bang my head into my desk, but then the universe coughed up this abomination. The first time I heard the word “pinfluencer,” I rolled my eyes so far back I could almost see a time where people didn’t make up obnoxious words to describe campaign components.Almost. Instead, we’re stuck in this unfortunate present where people say things like “pinfluencers.” Dark times indeed. 

What to say instead: “influencers on Pinterest” or “influential pinners” 

Worst non-word 

Learnings 

Cringe-inducing context: “Let’s discuss some of the key learnings from the presentation.” 

“Learnings” is not a word. It’s not in the Oxford English Dictionary, which means the committee that decided “selfie,” “twerk,” and “fauxhawk” should be added to the lexicon still decided that “learnings” is an affront on the English language. If that’s not definitive indicator that this isn’t a real word, I don’t know what is. Don’t even get me started on how often this phrase is unnecessarily hyphenated. 

What to say instead: lessons, points, nuggets, snippets 

Worst acronym 

PANK (Professional Aunt, No Kids) 

Cringe-inducing context: “Let’s see if we can identify some influencers from within our target audience of PANKs.” 

This industry loves its acronyms, and to be honest, most of them don’t bother me. I’m OK with EOD, COB, and CPG, because they came into being organically. That is, they’re used so often that they require shorthand. The world did not need the word “PANK.” But that’s just the tip of the iceberg (if you’ll excuse the cliché). The worst thing about PANK is that it’s considerably more annoying than it has to be. It just as easily could have been “PWWC” (Professional Woman Without Children” or “FPWC” (Female Professional Without Children) but instead, someone decided to make our lives just that much worse by deciding that we should have to hear the word “PANK.” It was probably the type of person who pushes their cat in a stroller and has a very strong opinion about which type of sweetener they use. 

What to say instead: aunt

Worst metaphor 

Tent pole 

Cringe-inducing context: “These activations are the tent poles of our overall plan.” 

This one isn’t as prevalent as the others, but that doesn’t make it any less irksome. It might be less terrible if used in conjunction with the phrase “media circus,” because at least there would kind of be a theme going on, but that has yet to be the case in my experience. 

What to say instead: moment, point, focus 

Worst cliché 

“Content is king.” 

Cringe-inducing context: See phrase above. 

“Content” is an incredibly broad and ambiguous word. Everything is content. So when you say “content is king,” what you’re basically saying is this: “Things are important. You have to have things in PR. In fact, having things is the most important thing in PR.” Clear as coal. If we can’t get rid of the word “content,” can we at least get rid of the phrase? I’m sure there are other comparable terms to personify the power, importance, and monarchy. Like Beyoncé. 

What to say instead: “Content is Beyoncé” (kidding, but I wouldn’t be upset if this caught on). 

Worst grammar faux-pas 

Plus-up 

Cringe-inducing context: “Let’s plus-up a few of these ideas.” 

Forget cringing, this one gives me hives. There is a plethora of verbs ripe for the choosing that would accurately describe what you’re trying to say here, but instead you opt for this conjunction/adverb hybrid that makes no grammatical sense whatsoever. Whenever I feel like hating everything, I think about the fact that this phrase comes from people who communicate for a living. 

What to say instead: expand, increase, develop, bulk up, build 

Eliminating one of these terms would be nothing short of a holiday miracle. Eliminating all of them? Well, we can dream. 


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