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'Doom' Words for PR Pitches
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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I am sure we have all received email pitches where the “Delete” button winds up being pressed. But how many of us have been guilty of using “cursed words” (in the view of Russell Working of pr.com)? In a recent blog post, Russell noted, “Evil forces lurk among us, threatening to destroy our way of life. Only communicators stand between civilization and a new Dark Age. But your quest starts with a taboo: Never write the 20 words that will bring down a curse on you, your communications and all mankind. Or, well, at least you will doom your pitches, press releases and internal emails, according to two scribes who have spent years reading ancient scrolls and over-hyped press releases.”

Working then commented on something another colleague did:

“Michael Smart, principal for MichaelSMARTPR, said he and New York Times technology columnist David Pogue once drew up a list of "cursed words" and hype phrases that undermine...credibility.

Here are the words:
  • Landmark
  • Revolutionary
  • Groundbreaking
  • Breakthrough
  • Turnkey
  • State of the art
  • Best in class
  • Cutting-edge
  • Leading-edge
  • Best-of-breed
  • Awe-inspiring
  • Decadent
  • Sumptuous
  • Breathtaking
  • Extraordinary
  • World-renowned
  • World-class
  • Stunning
  • Beautiful
  • Dramatic
Smart noted, "Lots of journalists tell me, 'I immediately delete releases as soon as I see one buzzword or any hype," and he continued by saying, “reporters read these phrases 10, 20, even 100 times a day in press releases.”

At the end of his blog piece, Working quoted Smart, “How to avoid the "cursed words"? Use specifics. If something's cutting-edge or revolutionary, specify what's new about it.” Working then noted that flacks should consider, as they try to pitch a new product, “What does it do? How fast is it? “

“Let nouns and verbs do the work of adjectives and adverbs. Concrete images enliven your writing,” Smart said.

Both Smart and Working share the same sentiment: “Don't send your poor press release to its doom. Avoid the curse. “


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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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