Words for journalists to avoid: the banned list

A daily email pops into the inboxes of colleagues in the newsroom where I am today.

Its subject line is ‘Word (or phrase) of the day’.

The purpose of the round robin from the newsroom’s head of production is not to encourage the use of said word or phrase. Au contraire.

My supersub friend’s mission is to steer his fellow journalists away from the sort of language that kills story flow stone dead.

It’s a noble aim.

So, to add wind to his wings, here’s my own banned list.

  • state-of-the-art: is there ever a new building that isn’t?
  • brand new: new
  • however: one of the ugliest, most pedestrian, and long-winded words in the English language. What’s wrong with but?
  • during: see above. What’s wrong with while (never whilst) or at?
  • police-speak: my current favourite is ‘police were called to reports of a crash‘ They weren’t. They were called to a crash. And the crash injured a man, not a male. Later they dealt with a doorstep conman – not, as the cops like to call it, a distraction burglary. And cut out the lacerations.
  • night-time economy: a particularly objectionable form of police speak, which acts as a clumsy catch-all for pubs and clubs but which means whatever you want or need it to mean. It needs clubbing to death.
  • headquartered: hanging really is too good for any business reporter who uses this horrific non-word. Based is the real, actual, word you’re searching for.
  • other business-speak: I’m just popping down the retail units – do you want anything? It’s shops (yelled at 96 decibels). And don’t get me started on retail offer or offering.
  • council-speak: My all-time favourite is The Secretary of State (always with extra capitals). It’s Communities Secretary Greg Clark. Remember that name. Even if it is instantly forgettable.
  • iconic: Unless of course, you are talking about one of the Seven Wonders of the World, a London bus or the Sgt Pepper album cover. Ditto for special, and probably also for tragic. Here’s another word: superfluous.
  • purchase: has anyone ever used this word in a proper conversation? Buy, buy, buy.
  • outside of: Lose the of – and any other Americanism horrors.
  • issues around: No. Nor stakeholders, or any other phrase which involves nailing vague jelly to a wall.
  • declared, commented, claimed: Or any other unnecessary variant on the only word that should ever be used: said.

That’ll do. I’m just winding myself up now.

I’ll leave my friend – the great Jason Chare – to keep up his good daily work.

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2 thoughts on “Words for journalists to avoid: the banned list

  1. I agree on most of these – except when you are writing a script for a longer form film – you need some alternatives sometimes and you may need to put in some words for legal reasons eg. claimed. However you do have my most hated police-speak phrases, also fire speak and other such jargon….you know what I mean….not that we indulge in jargon of course (cough!)

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