Words To Avoid

I’ve often emphasised the importance of making your message clear and understandable. Especially in today’s world where we are bombarded with information.

The UK government’s official website, gov.uk, has a style guide that recommends avoiding certain words.

Let’s have a look at their list:

  • agenda (unless it’s for a meeting), use ‘plan’ instead
  • advance, use ‘improve’ or something more specific
  • collaborate, use ‘work with’
  • combat (unless military), use ‘solve’, ‘fix’ or something more specific
  • commit/pledge, use ‘plan to x’, or ‘we’re going to x’ where ‘x’ is a specific verb
  • counter, use ‘prevent’ or try to rephrase a solution to a problem
  • deliver, use ‘make’, ‘create’, ‘provide’ or a more specific term (pizzas, post and services are delivered – not abstract concepts like improvements)
  • deploy (unless it’s military or software), use ‘use’ or if putting something somewhere use ‘build’, ‘create’ or ‘put into place’
  • dialogue, use ‘spoke to’ or ‘discussion’
  • disincentivise, use ‘discourage’ or ‘deter’
  • empower, use ‘allow’ or ‘give permission’
  • facilitate, say something specific about how you’re helping – for example, use ‘run’ if talking about a workshop
  • focus, use ‘work on’ or ‘concentrate on’
  • foster (unless it’s children), use ‘encourage’ or ‘help’
  • impact (unless talking about a collision), use ‘have an effect on’ or ‘influence’
  • incentivise, use ‘encourage’ or ‘motivate’
  • initiate, use ‘start’ or ‘begin’
  • key (unless it unlocks something), usually not needed but can use ‘important’ or ‘significant’
  • land (unless you’re talking about aircraft), depending on context, use ‘get’ or ‘achieve’
  • leverage (unless in the financial sense), use ‘influence’ or ‘use’
  • liaise, use ‘work with’ or ‘work alongside’
  • overarching, usually superfluous but can use ‘encompassing’
  • progress, use ‘work on’ or ‘develop’ or ‘make progress’
  • promote (unless talking about an ad campaign or career advancement), use ‘recommend’ or ‘support’
  • robust (unless talking about a sturdy object), depending on context, use ‘well thought out’ or ‘comprehensive’
  • slim down (unless talking about one’s waistline), use ‘make smaller’ or ‘reduce the size’
  • streamline, use ‘simplify’ or ‘remove unnecessary administration’
  • strengthening (unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures), depending on context, use ‘increasing funding’ or ‘concentrating on’ or ‘adding more staff’
  • tackle (unless talking about fishing tackle or a physical tackle, like in rugby), use ‘stop’, ‘solve’ or ‘deal with’
  • transform, describe what you’re doing to change the thing
  • utilise, use ‘use’

Words can make your message clear and understandable.

Choose them wisely.


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Foto Christine Sparks

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