19 annoying words and their alternatives

These words—a few of which aren’t even real words—set the author’s teeth on edge. Which words bother you?

Each year, language websites and popular publications poll readers to find out what they consider to be the most annoying words in the English language. Words such as “slacks,” “moist” and “dude” frequently make the lists.

A few of my most-hated words are listed below, along with their less irritating alternatives.

Artisanal — use “handmade” or “hand-crafted.

Annoying: Cassandra will only eat artisanal cheese, so please bring her something else.
Better: Cassandra will only eat hand-made cheese, so please bring her something else.

Busted use “broken,” “hurt” or “injured.”

Annoying: My sister once pushed me down the stairs and I busted my lip.
Better: My sister once pushed me down the stairs and I hurt my lip.

Dais — use “platform,” “stage” or “head table.”

Annoying: Robert had no idea why he was seated on the dais.
Better: Robert had not idea why he was seated on the stage.

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Docent — use “guide” or “instructor.”

Annoying: We had a difficult time sneaking away from the docent.
Better: We had a difficult time sneaking away from the guide.

Forwent use “waived,” “declined” or “relinquished.”

Annoying: Steve forwent the invitation to happy hour.
Better: Steve declined the invitation to happy hour.

Guru use “advisor,” “counselor,” “mentor,” “expert” or “advocate.”

Annoying: I am the guru of underwater basket weaving.
Better: I am an expert at underwater basket weaving.

Hors d’oeuvre — use “appetizers,” which is much easier to spell.

Annoying: Please join us for gin and hors d’oeuvre after the performance.
Better: Please join us for gin and appetizers after the performance.

Irregardless — use “regardless” or “irrespective.”

Annoying: Irregardless of what the dictionary says, I’m going to continue using the word “irregardless.”
Better: Regardless of what the dictionary says, I’m going to continue using the word “irregardless.”

Liaise — use “cooperate,” “collaborate,” “talk,” “meet” or “consult.”

Annoying: We need to liaise about the new website design.
Better: We need to consult about the new website design.

Opine — use “state,” “speak” or “express.”

Annoying: Perhaps I opined too strongly about my dislike of exclamation points.
Better: Perhaps I spoke too strongly about my dislike of exclamation points.

Renege — use “renounce,” “revoke” or “deny.”

Annoying: I suspect they want to meet so they can renege on the agreement.
Better: I suspect they want to meet so they can revoke the agreement.

Signage — use “signs.”

Annoying: We will post signage throughout the lobby.
Better: We will post signs throughout the lobby.

Slather — use “spread” or “cover.”

Annoying: It is always a good idea to slather yourself with sunscreen before going outside.
Better: It is always a good idea to cover yourself in sunscreen before going outside.

Utilize — use “use,” “apply,” “exploit,” “employ,” “operate” or “develop.”

Annoying: Jeff will utilize the archived content for the video.
Better: Jeff will use the archived content for the video.

Ideate — use “brainstorm,” “think” or “create.”

Annoying: We are supposed to ideate about the new campaign at this meeting.
Better: We are supposed to brainstorm about the new campaign at this meeting.

Tout — use “promote,” “solicit” or “flaunt.”

Annoying: The employees in that department are notorious for touting skills they don’t have.
Better: The employees in that department are notorious for flaunting skills they don’t have.

Listicle — use “list story” or “list article.”

Annoying: This article is an example of a listicle.
Better: This article is an example of a list story.

Verbiage — This word is mistakenly used as a synonym for “wording,” “content” or “language.” If that’s what you mean, use “content,” “language” or “wording.”

Annoying: Send me the verbiage and I’ll add it to the website.
Better: Send me the content and I’ll add it to the website.

I can’t explain it, but these words make me want to jump out of my skin. PR Daily readers, what words do you find inexplicably annoying?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.com.

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