Stop ‘utilizing’ these words!

The owner of a PR shop highlights a variety of words—some of which were invented or popularized by PR pros—that we all should avoid.

Although I’m a grammar and word nerd, I rarely write about it, mainly because others do it so well, and for PR pros, the frequency of reminders can be tedious. Yes, certain incorrect and overused words do recur: My personal dreads are “hone in” for “home in” or anything with “utilize,” as well as PR jargon such as “buzz” and “optics.” In honor of the 25th anniversary of “The Princess Bride,” here’s a list of words commonly misused or overused in professional circles or in the office. Some are merely old, some are incorrect, and others should never have seen the light of day. Any nouns used as verbs. And vice versa. “Onboarding, “concretize,” and “webify” are three offenders. I swore I’d never say “productize,” but after 20 years in tech PR, it rolls off my tongue. Then there’s “showroom,” as in, “I showroomed the new tablet, then ordered it from Amazon.” Most nouns should never be “verbed.” Flexitarian. The word refers to dietary habits, but it’s also a badge of identity, like “metrosexual.” According to Merriam-Webster’s Kory Stamper, it’s from the “you are what you eat” school. In my book, it’s confusing and pretentious. Funemployed. No, it’s not. Maybe pre-recession, but since 2008 this hasn’t been a good word. Spinnish. I’ve heard this used to describe the language used by PR pros and politicians. It’s funny, perhaps, but backhanded. Refudiate. Sarah Palin famously coined this clunker, and it should have vanished when she quit as governor of Alaska. Democratize. Another “verbification” that actually makes sense to me, though it may be through sheer overuse. And that’s the problem: This word is just so tired, having been used to describe everything from financial investments to art. Let’s vote it out for a while. Agreeance. Are we all in “agreement” that this is an invented word, and not a good one? Smirting. This is meant to refer to flirting while smoking, since anti-smoking regulations have driven so many office workers outdoors. NPR’s “A Way With Words” confirms my suspicion that it’s something a PR person invented and tried to popularize, but it never really caught fire. Ridonkulous. I’m secretly fond of this one, but it’s seen better days. When a word is attached to discount sales, it’s not as cool as you think. Sexting. Last year “sexting” was named the Most Annoying New Tech Word by Computeractive magazine (which I think should consider a name change itself.) Alas, it’s here to stay. And to be honest, “intexticated”—from the same list—is actually worse. Digerati. Does anyone really say this? Certainly not the members of this group. What would you add? Please share them in the comments section. Dorothy Crenshaw is CEO and creative director of Crenshaw Communications. She has been named one of the public relations industry’s 100 Most Powerful Women by PR Week. A version of this story first appeared on her blog. (Image via)

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