People discussing the worst words over coffee

Our 50 worst words – plus why you should avoid them

Here’s a list of some of the worst words to avoid and why. We included words we can’t stand and we asked lots of people for their thoughts (with some unexpected choices).

While mostly inoffensive, these are bad words for all sorts of reasons. Some are super formal or corporate, whereas some aren’t inclusive, which is a big no-no around here. And some just sound rubbish!

Let’s horrify ourselves – although, some are polarising:

A-Z of our 50 worst words

Overused, vacant, pointless? ‘Amazing’ is used to describe things that aren’t that amazing. We’re pretty sure no packet of crisps can be literally amazing, although beef and horseradish crisps come close. (‘Literally’ almost made this list too.)

Like ‘amazing’. It’s sometimes enjoyable to say out loud, but sounds a bit silly and excessive in text.

Clunky to say or read because the vowel sound goes on forever. Also the letters don’t look nice next to each other. Though it does get bonus points for smashing the I before E except after C rule.

If it isn’t truly bespoke, don’t say it. We’ve noticed many bespoke things seem to be a bunch of products which may or may not work together.

This is about context too. It’s a lovely word, but only for describing waterfalls. Nancy explains:

“I dislike corporate speak that steals beautiful poetic words. One company I worked for in the 90s talked about ‘cascading information’. Oh, you’ve ruined it. It was a publishing company as well!”

– Nancy Poller, Creative Director and Brand Designer

A long, messy word that’s obscure, hideous to pronounce and looks awful. No thanks.

Not as bad as ‘centrifugalise’, but still no. Let’s just say ‘aware’.

An impersonal way to describe an intake of students. ‘This year’s students’ takes longer to say but feels more human.

This one is sometimes misused by businesses to describe something that isn’t eclectic at all. We think it sounds try-hard. But Lefteris loves ‘eclectic’. He might’ve persuaded us to include it in our upcoming 50 favourite words as well:

“Oh no, I love ‘eclectic’! First of all I like the word because there’s not really any synonyms for it. There might be one but it doesn’t sound as cool. I also love it because eclectic represents my favourite style of interior design. As a word, it’s easy to say and it’s of Greek origin so… 😝”

– Lefteris Anestis, Dr in Psychology

So many letters when you could just say ‘aim’ or ‘try’.

Things tend to be overstated as exciting. Try to convey the excitement rather than stating it.

We’ll let Cara explain this one (and we fully agree):

“‘In this ever-changing world…’ ‘The ever-changing landscape of…’ Change is a given in life, in the same way as breathing is a given. It’s patronising and throwaway, and just a great example of lazy writing. Totally wasted words.”

– Cara Jelfs, Content and Campaign Marketer

So close to ‘fishmonger’ yet so very different. Does ‘fashionmonger’ sound like a fashionable word? We don’t think so.

You could just say ‘foolish’ or ‘silly’, which are both simpler, sound more natural, and don’t have the same risk of misinterpretation.

So for starters, they’re old fashioned, and do they go through the washing machine often enough? Beth has another excellent reason:

“‘Flannel’ gives me the ick. I think because someone who was creepy said it was their favourite word.”

– Beth Hayes, Director of Marketing and Communications

Multiple, very different meanings. Are we forging relationships or metals? Or worse, are we forging forgeries? When used in business contexts especially, we think there’s an unfortunate juxtaposition of the meanings.

We don’t like the negative connotations of this word and how it can exclude people from different countries. Saying ‘international’ or ‘people from around the world’ feels much more inclusive and human.

It’s a word that doesn’t sound nice – ‘to foster relations’. It’s a word that businesses use quite insincerely in our opinion, whereas it feels authentic and caring in the context of ‘foster parents’.

A two-for-one for exactly the same reasons. When things are described as fun or funky, they often aren’t. Is a ‘fun’ task at a team-building day actually fun? Does a ‘funky’ vase have anything to do with funk?

Often overstated. But is the thing quite clever or is it Da-Vinci-level clever? We think ‘genius’ works better with sarcasm (which we don’t usually recommend writing down).

Not only is it a jumble of ‘gigantic’ and ‘enormous’, but both of those words look and sound better than ‘ginormous’. Sometimes words are nicer because they’re just nicer on the eyes and ears!

Is the thing you’re describing actually ‘iconic’? Probably not.

There’s an occasional place for this, but it shouldn’t be such a buzzword. Is the thing truly innovative? Could you just describe the innovation and explain the difference it’s going to make to people, rather than saying ‘bla bla is innovative’?

‘Timmo is a kickass content writer’. Cringe.

In the words of Lefteris who loves the word ‘eclectic’: 🤮

Sounds stupid. And it’s only two letters away from a very different word.

Let’s not exclude more than half the population. Humankind, humans, humanity, people, folks…

When we’re talking about the faces of an artisan-crafted gemstone, that’s great. Whereas multi-faceted strategies sound like corporate ridiculousness.

A nice word in the context of tone of voice, but it’s prone to greenwashing if a business says ‘natural’ instead of defining their sustainability credentials. Michelle explains:

“‘Natural’ is so ambiguous nowadays when it comes to food or makeup/skincare. Especially in the sustainability sector. Certain words are not regulated so it’s easy to be greenwashed.”

– Michelle Sabado, Sustainability Blogger

One of our most disliked words. Partly because it’s so overused. Also because it sounds insincere when businesses say they’re passionate about data or staplers. (Plus it reminds us of icky passionate Channel 5 movies.) While it might sound ok when used sparingly to refer to creative interests, we think it’s better to demonstrate your passion with examples or stories, rather than saying ‘I’m passionate about…’

“‘Passionate’ always exemplifies the opposite and makes me think of grey walls and ‘hang in there’ cat posters.”

– Alexandra Richards, Creative Projects Manager

We think it’s a horrid word to say and look at. And organisations usually expect people to know what it means. You could just say ‘theory or approach to teaching’? But Ben likes it so we’ll back off:

“Love ‘pedagogical’. Use it all the time. It’s really weird but it’s such a great way to get across that we’re not just talking a basic teaching strategy. Even better is ‘pedagogical content knowledge’.”

– Benjamin Davey, Teacher Trainer

Pension feels like a hodgepodge of ‘tension’, ‘prison’ and ‘penitentiary’. None of which we’re fans of.

Gross. ‘Gross’ is gross too. They both sound, look and are dreadful. ‘Dreadful’ is fun to say though.

Who says this out loud? It sounds like a posh dinosaur. One hath observed a plethora in the vastness of sky.

When relating to a group of people, a ‘policy’ can often sound impersonal and dehumanising.

“A lot of it is context. It’s hard because lots of words that people consider slurs or exclusionary, members of the community use to describe themselves. Then I thought about things like ‘policy’ as we are seeing more and more policies/guidance being pushed that discriminates and oppresses trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming folks.”

– Charly Calpin, LGBTQ+ Youth Worker

Horrid to say, horrid to look at, horrid noise. Either redeemed or reinforced depending on whether you like Jamie Oliver.

Ever noticed how ‘push’ takes as long to say as three-syllable words? Try ‘push’ and ‘meander’. It’s the ‘ushhh’

“I don’t like how ‘push’ sounds when I pronounce it. I think that ‘dish’ sounds a bit sharper and more defined. I like how Heath Ledger’s Joker pronounces it, but he could pull off anything.”

– Svetozar Rodić, Visual Designer

Looks and sounds silly. Impersonal. Distractingly similar to ‘coyote’.

An emphasis word that often sounds weak or unnecessary. Instead of saying something is ‘really good’, you might be better sticking with ‘good’, ‘great’ or ‘wonderful’ (which absolutely will be in our 50 favourite words).

“I like to avoid emphasis words like ‘truly’, ‘definitely’, ‘really’, etc. I only use them in rare cases.”

– Mauro Semedo, eCommerce UX Designer

Another cringe. An actual ‘rockstar’ is too cool to be described as a ‘rockstar’. When businesses or people say ‘so and so is a rockstar’ it’s usually wildly inaccurate – they’ve probably just made a good cup of tea or chosen a trendy outfit.

Vague and written to death. We recommend skipping the word ‘solutions’ altogether – jump straight into describing what the solutions are.

Fun to say out loud… but has a word ever had two meanings that are so far apart from each other? When someone in a business context says ‘I really think this person has spunk’, it’s a spit-your-coffee out moment.

A pretty word to look at, but old fashioned and no one says it. And if we did say it, we’d prefer to pronounce it in three syllables rather than two. Wait, we seem to like this one.

Sounds unpleasant. The letters look horrid next to each other. Makes us feel squeamish. Still reminds us of that Game of Thrones wedding.

Who’s going around tittering at things?! Most words for laughing are onomatopoeic or conjure up the style of laugh. Cackle’s great. Love a good guffaw. But what the hell is a titter?

A bit cute, a bit creepy. Used instead of ‘bellybutton’. While we think ‘bellybutton’ looks and sounds bad as well – who on Earth is saying ‘tummybutton’?

‘Unique’ things are usually far from unique. ‘Unique’ appears on almost every business website. What’s more unique is not to see the word ‘unique’. Also sounds like we’re saying ‘you neek’ – ‘neeks’ are nerdy geeks apparently. Nah.

Awful to say out loud, too many consonants, super old fashioned. Julie sums it up:

“I HATE ‘whilst’. My all time least favourite word. It’s so forced and wannabe posh. It doesn’t sound like a word a normal human would ever use. I had a boss who used it and it made me cringe.”

– Julie Thompson Dredge, PR Agency Founder

Ridiculing people who care about human rights? We’re not into that at all.

Almost always unnecessary. Instead of ‘how about yourself?’ we can say ‘how about you?’ Or instead of ‘you can do it yourself’, say ‘you can do it’.

Some other great suggestions – avatar, benevolent, cannibalise, refectory, rhythm, purport, tendril…

What about you – did we include your worst words? Let us know any you want to add or disagree with.

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