10 of the most nefarious words in the English language

Cast these infernal abominations and annoying clichés into the abyss of wretched writing.

New, terrible coinages are concocted every day, it seems.

Some grating word or phrase shoots into the public sphere and gets the meme treatment. Before long, the masses tweet and text it into the vernacular, and bam—six months later it’s in the dictionary. Just look at this nonsense. Do we want to live in a world that enshrines “chiweenie,” “glamping” or “embiggen” in our language’s most esteemed manual, guide and arbiter?

Yes, you say? Oh, well. Let’s at least agree that the following words are horrible and should be deleted upon sight:


Wasn’t that burrito just, like, amazing?

It was tasty. It was delicious, even. It was not amazing.

This word has been overused to the point of meaninglessness.

Don’t take my word for it—the King has spoken.


If words were animals, this eyesore would be a skittering, unkillable cockroach. However, “impactful” is not even a real word, so it’s more like a genetically engineered roach-beast that escaped the lab and is now breeding wildly all over the world.

As we shared in 2014:

This is not a word. You hear and see this non-word so frequently that it seems inevitable it will eventually steamroll its way into some kind of official status. Though in the same spirit of fighting against the seemingly unstoppable stream of Jets and Patriots fans clogging up South Florida, I encourage you to push against the tide by rejecting the validity of “impactful.”


Full disclosure: I tried to use this word—in a headline, no less—about six months ago. It was a dark moment I do not wish to revisit.

If you’re writing about efforts to restore a ’72 El Camino, go for it. If you’re writing about content marketing, use a different word.

It’s worth noting that a supercharger‘s function is to blow hot air.


“Actually” is actually amazingly useless.

From Ragan’s style guide:

This is camouflage for “very” and “literally.” It’s intended to provide emphasis; it doesn’t. Equally useless: “truly” and “really.”


Do you wince whenever someone describes their field or industry as a “space”? Do you giggle every time Kirk Herbstreit says a wide receiver just needs to “get the ball in space”? (My wife brought this to my attention years ago, and I now I just imagine players slowly floating with a football just outside the pod doors.)

Let those “thought leaders” (another bit of piffle) stay busy “disrupting” their spaces. Meanwhile, the rest of us can build a jargon-free colony in the far reaches of our galaxy.


This immediately signals that the next thing is going to be aggressively uninteresting.

If you consistently try to pump up what you’re about to mention with a simpering “interestingly” and fail to deliver the goods, your audience will quickly become skeptical. You run the risk of becoming the writer who cried wolf.

Show, don’t tell.


Loads of people say or write “utilize” because it sounds fancy. You can just use “use.”


Corporate buzzwords constitute a separate category of hated flapdoodle words that deserve the nearest trashcan. However, “enterprise” merits a mention here for its ubiquity and inanity.

Unless you’re writing about “Star Trek” or a specific battleship, there’s no reason to use this word. (It seems we’re back in outer space—or at least at sea.)

(See also: innovative, bandwidth, actionable, agile and deliverables.)


This is another overused word that we’ve nearly pummeled into obsolescence.

Use it sparingly, such as at the Grand Canyon, or upon first sight of Golden Corral’s Chocolate Wonderfall.


After serving in World War II, my granddaddy was an airplane mechanic for 35 years. He treated everyone with respect, cleaned his own fish and never badmouthed anyone.

Amassing thousands of “fans” on a social media platform might make you an “influencer” by today’s standards, but let’s never forget who the real “influencers” are.

All right, readers, it’s your turn. Offer your verbal bêtes noires in the comments section, please.

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One Response to “10 of the most nefarious words in the English language”

    Janine Marsh says:

    Breathtaking. The amount of breathtaking places I’ve read about, I should be lying on the floor, clutching my throat, gasping for breath by now doing an impression of Arnie in Total Recall when all the air is sucked out of his world…

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