For three years at Houston PR we’ve been collecting jargon and buzzwords.  We write to correspondents and editors in the UK and the US once a quarter, asking them to identify the words and phrases that annoy them the most.

Some of their responses go into our ‘How NOT To’ Guide to PR – and some go into, our automated ‘jargon removal tool’ built out of a couple of bits of coconut tied together with string.

I was wondering this morning whether we had enough information to create a definitive list of the most annoying pieces of jargon – and whether we could find the unholy grail – the word (or words) most likely to inflame a journalist.

I looked through all the responses we’ve received and found the most frequently mentioned terms.  Then I took a look at other lists online.  Finally, I wrote out to several thousand journalists in the UK and US with a list of the most mentioned and asked them to vote for the worst.

The votes are in, they’ve been counted, and I can reveal that the most annoying piece of jargon is……


Here’s the Houston PR list of the ten most annoying pieces of jargon in order of irritation (from most irritating to slightly less so):

  1. Reach out
  2. Growthhacking
  3. Onboarding
  4. Curate (my vote if I had one)
  5. Circle back
  6. Synergy
  7. Empower
  8. Solutions
  9. De-layer
  10. Ecosystem

Just outside the top ten were ‘bandwidth’, ‘robust’ and ‘evangelist’.

There were a few dishonourable mentions in the ‘Other (please specify)’ category:

‘Disruptive’, ‘leverage’, ‘downsize’, ‘monetise’ and ‘unicorn’ were cited several times.

So there we have it.  Top tip, PR people: if you are writing to a correspondent or editor, announce that you are ‘reaching out’ at your peril.

Yours helpfully, etc.


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