Fortify your press releases by ditching 10 overused words

Hackneyed phrasing is a red flag for journalists, yet PR pros often cram their messages with trite language. Here’s what to avoid, along with tips for trimming extraneous verbiage.

Press release buzzwords to avoid

Press releases all seem the same.

Little more than the company name changes as in: Company X is “an industry-leading platform with the best service and the largest partners with a turn-key solution that future-proofs your experience.” That’s because many PR writers spew the same words over and over.

To find the most overused words in press releases, communications agency Trust Insights reviewed “a substantial subset” of press releases published in 2019 using the Google News database hosted by the GDELT project. The list published in its 2020 Data-Driven Marketing Trends Report include:

  1. Service: in 65.07% of releases
  2. First: in 60.91%
  3. Leading: in 56.32%
  4. Experience: in 50.29%
  5. Future: 50.1%
  6. Best: in 42.96%
  7. Platform: in 36.42%
  8. Largest: in 30.69%
  9. Partner: in 23.52%
  10. Solution: in 22.19%

The problem is that these words occur with little variation, Trust Insights notes. Press releases become templated statements filled with trite jargon. The result? The brand is immediately branded as mediocre.

Why does this happen? Junior-level staffers at corporate PR departments and PR agencies typically fill in templates to save time. They take the safe approach. Successful press releases that win more placements and attention take controversial stands, offer unique perspectives, or use distinctive words and phrases.

Other PR people have their own lists of words to avoid in press releases. In a PR Daily article, Rebecca Benison, media relations professional at PR.com, cites:

  • If you don’t have proof that your product is the best, the word is fluff and possibly misleading.
  • A revolutionary product forever changes how we think about something. Is your product really revolutionary? Not likely.
  • Surprisingly common in press releases in other countries, it’s uncommon in ordinary speech in the U.S. Keep it simple. Even monosyllabic words can be confusing.
  • Something that’s “amazing” causes great surprise or wonder. The word is so overused, readers ignore it.  Especially avoid it in executive quotes.
  • A vague term that represents an opinion rather than concrete facts. Explain the product’s actual benefits.

“Use natural language, and get to the point as quickly as possible. Don’t drown your message with superfluous words,” Benison advises.

After reviewing online press release archives, Adam Sherk, vice president of SEO and digital strategy for Define Media Group, listed a remarkable 100 overused buzzwords and marketing-speak. Leading the pack were “leader” and “leading” with 161,000 and 44,900 mentions, respectively.

They were followed by “best,” “top,” “unique,” and “great.” At least “revolutionary,” so overused in the 1990s, ranked at No. 29 with fewer than 5,000 mentions, he notes.

For an antidote to commonplace superlatives, Sherk suggests the book “Better than Great” by Arthur Potnik.

While you’re avoiding buzzwords in press releases, you can also eliminate extraneous or “fluff” words, suggests Dana Sitar in her Notes Newsletter.

“They’re the words you almost never need in a sentence. They occupy space, trip tongues and take readers down a long, winding path when a short, straight one would do,” she writes.

She cites five words you (almost) never need in a sentence and provides multiple examples of how to excise the five (actually nine) words: different, that, currently, certain, specific or particular, very, really, totally or any similar emphasizing adverb.

She offers convincing examples. Here are a few with her suggested revisions:

  • We have many different types of soup. → We have many types of soup.
  • I know that you don’t want this. → I know you don’t want this.
  • I’m currently between jobs. → I’m between jobs.
  • A specific location → a location.
  • A certain amount → an amount→ a large amount.
  • Very big → Huge, gigantic, enormous, prodigious.
  • Really want → desire, crave, covet, yearn for.
  • Totally surprised → astonished, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, nonplused.

A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.

COMMENT

3 Responses to “Fortify your press releases by ditching 10 overused words”

    Bill Spaniel says:

    Too many quotations include the word “excited,” as in “We’re excited to have John join our firm.” The level of excitement at that firm must be really low.

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