Curse Words & Phrases in PR

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Public relations firms have to walk a fine line when they write press releases and communicate for their clients. It takes one wrong word or a misstep for everything to go downhill, with the client losing attention or worse, credibility in their product or image. Firms have to make sure their client stays on top in their industry. Words are a large part of that.

Gabe Public Relations firm released a list not too long ago of the worst words in public relations. Here are just a few from the complete list:

  • Innovative
  • Leading
  • Solutions
  • Unique

Another problem some firms run into is the use of casual slang. With the increase in social media and shorthand, professional vocabulary has begun to dissipate in some industries. Especially in small, laid back companies, there’s a risk of using words meant for casual conversation in a professional setting. While it’s okay to say awesome, no problem, and absolutely to each other in the office, these are not words investors, board of directors or even your customers want to hear.

Here at Metzger, we’ve got a curses list of our own:

  • First to market: In most cases, this sounds completely unfounded no matter how you spin it. Unless you are truly (and can prove it) first to market in a significant way, don’t use this.
  • Best/most unique: Being the “best” is nearly impossible, especially with all the innovation in markets these days. And you’re either unique (meaning only) or you’re not. Unique doesn’t use modifiers.
  • Adjectives: Using adjectives often distracts from the real product or company. Stick with action verbs and nouns that hit harder at who you are.
  • Can I use a fake name?: When it comes to customer reviews, clients should never try to get in and put a good spin on their company.
  • What if we pretend to be a customer?: If clients started giving their own reviews, there wouldn’t be much to trusting the review system anymore. Want a real mess? Do it and get caught!
  • Proud to announce & other emotional phrases: It’s news. Emotions are not part of the announcement.
  • Using first names: First names are too casual for press releases. So is Mr/Mrs/Ms—just use the last name.
  • The Company: Press releases aren’t legal documents. Company should not be capitalized.
  • Over vs. more than: Not the same modifiers. Always use more than in describing client statistics.
  • That: Nine times out of 10, it’s not needed in a sentence.
  • Exclamation point (!): Only use these in novels.
  • State names: Make sure there’s a comma between city and state and phrase the sentence properly (ex. In Scottsbluff, Neb., there is…). And AP Style calls for different abbreviations than postal (e.g., Neb. vs. NE).
  • Less vs. fewer: Make sure you know the proper time to use the right modifier (ex. less beer vs. fewer beers).

And of course, don’t use actual curse words. Save them for the computer screen or the bar.

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