12 Days of Christmas: 11 Phrases That Should be BannedOn the 11th Day of Christmas, Spin Sucks gave to you 11 phrases that should be banned, 10 PR metrics, nine productivity tipseight communications podcastsseven books for communicatorssix SEO tricksfive breakable habitsfour PRM toolsthree AI expertstwo PR trends, and one mindset shift in a pear tree.

Our topic today should make every communicator cringe: phrases that should be banned.

We all have them.

We all say them.

They are horrible, but sadly these expressions keep sneaking into our language like fleas infesting a house.

They are icky, often grammatically incorrect, and reek of jargon cologne.

Here are 11 phrases that should be banned in 2021 (AND FOREVER).

Stop Calling Yourself a ________

If there is one thing EVERYONE can agree on., it’s that people need to stop calling themselves by ridiculous descriptor terms.

You aren’t a ninja.

Or a guru.

You aren’t even a rockstar.

You don’t have a tribe.

So please go through your LinkedIn profile and remove any words that describe you and your skillset in this over-the-top, cartoony way.

Delete them from your bio and story. 

And please, please, please take them out of your title. Unless you are an actual ninja, it all needs to go. 

I’m lumping this collection as one phrase that should be banned.

Who Really Thinks You’re a Thought Leader?

Did your Mom tell you that?

Did someone come up to you in a bar and was like, “Whoa, are you one of those thought leaders?”


Spoiler alert: if you feel the need to call yourself a “thought leader,” you probably aren’t.

It is important to remember you don’t become a thought leader through proclamation.

That’s just not how it works.

In the same way you can’t claim you’re the smartest person in the room. Only other people can give you those titles.

The internet gives us this ability to claim squishy titles we hope imply meaning.

Fortunately and unfortunately, often they do.

(Although, now I totally want to call my kid a thought leader so she can grow up and someday say, “Why yes, my mom DID tell me I’m a thought leader!” Hahahaha!)

The Bastardization of “Influencers”

Remember when the word “influencer” actually meant something significant?

We used them in strategies, built our shared media plan around them, and worked with them for content and earned media opportunities.

Influencer marketing mattered to our brand and influencers were important partners for our communications strategy.

But then suddenly, everyone who wanted free stuff decided they were an influencer

This ranges from the “hot mess express” who posts five million pictures of her photoshopped booty or his painted on abs to the “entrepreneur guru” whose only experience as an actual  entrepreneur was when they got lucky “coaching” one person on how to be successful.

Kids now want to be “social media influencers” as careers.

It doesn’t matter whether they have any talent or expertise, and therefore a platform from which to influence.

The “influence” part of being an influencer (a pretty important part) has been lost in translation.

Leaving behind photo likes, follower count, and any type of paid profile “inflation”  or “social proof” it takes to get attention and followers.

We need to define what an “influencer” is and find a different word for Mr. and Ms. Booty Shaker and Captain Guru.

Passive Gestures of Approval

Speaking of influencers, Martin Waxman suggested we stop using the term “likes”, since the day that Instagram down-regulated them.

Instead, he suggests we use “passive gestures of approval,, which he thinks are a better representation of what they are.

So can we please do that?

Just to see what other people say.

It might catch on and that would be lovely. (Although I’m sure it will then also be “acronym-ed” into PGA.)

Stop Utilizing Things


Well, it might be tied with “impact” as a verb, which I also hate because you can’t actually have an impact on something. Planes can combust on impact. You can have impacted teeth. But you cannot have an impact on something.

Back to the utilizing. 

(The improper use of “literally” is another one. Is your head literally going to explode? Really? You probably shouldn’t be talking to me right now. Go to the ER. If you tell me you “literally utilized something to have an impact on someone,” you are dead to me.)

If you find “utilize” popping up in your content and discussions often you are then:

  • A scientist and you are using to correctly describe the utilization of a substrate.
  • Using it as if it is interchangeable with “use.” Which is incorrect.
  • Using it when another word, such as “applied” or “manage” makes more sense. Again INCORRECT.
  • Or using it completely out of context because you think it makes you sound smart (it does not). INCORRECT X ZILLIONS.

So please just stop using “utilize”.

Do it for me. Do it for mankind. Just do it.

Corporate Jargon 101

Several of our phrases that should be banned fall into the corporate jargon playbook.

It’s really hard to narrow them to just five more, but here goes:

  • Stop pivoting. Can we not use the word “pivot” to describe a change in strategy. No more pivoting, OK?
  • Everything doesn’t need to be made extreme. Terms such as hyper-xx, uber-xx, or nano-xx. Sometimes you are just focusing, you don’t necessarily have to hyper-focus. Often you are just excited, you don’t have to be uber-excited. And what happened to just being unique versus very unique? Maybe it’s time to chill out a bit.
  • You aren’t hip, so don’t even try. You aren’t cool. Face it. And using any phrase as a cool or savvy substitute for what you are actually trying to say won’t help. Just say it.  We don’t always need an analogy or trending slang. Some examples are things such as “the juice isn’t worth the squeeze”. Or “we’re going to give that proposal a haircut.” GAG! Also, if you hear a word and don’t know what it means from anyone between the ages of 13 to 19 on social media, DO NOT USE IT.
  • “Circle back.” Stop “circling back” to things. That tells me you are simply not prepared to answer my question or address my need. Just tell me when you’ll be able to do so. You aren’t on a conveyer belt.
  • And finally, the word that just won’t die: epic. Can we please just let it go? Things have been epic so long it’s no longer possible for them to actually be epic.

In just a minute, I’ll be back to talk you through the last five phrases that should be banned.

Take That Out

There is a reason we use filler words—and it’s often because we don’t know what to say or we think they make us sound smarter than we are. We use them when we speak (think ums and ahs) and they also translate to our writing. 

One of the best examples of a useless filler word to ban from your writing is the word “that.”

In most cases, you can simply cut “that” out to tighten your prose.

Sentences always sound better without it.

If you are a “that-aholic,” it will take you a while to adjust to how sentences look without “that.” Right now you might be thinking, “No, all the sentences I use “that” in need “that”….I need “that,” I have to use “that”…don’t take my “that” away from me pleeeease. My sentences won’t make sense.”

These are clearly the ramblings of an addict.

But you CAN do this! Start with one “that” at a time and you’ll edit your way to better content.

Your Favorite Phrases That Should Be Banned

And there you have it, 11 phrases that should be banned.

Which phrases would you add to this list?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich