Avoiding words and phrases

speak no evilRandom musings…Watching what we say and when we say it can be tricky waters to navigate. I came across something recently that reminded me of Jim Romenesko’s post in March regarding Washington Post Outlook section editor Carlos Lozada’s list of Outlook words and phrases that should be avoided. Their editor’s comments are in parentheses and mine are also in parentheses but with “Ed:” in front of the comments.

I always enjoy reading about what we should or shouldn’t say in e-mails. I think some of them are funny and I hope you do too. So, enjoy and I hope there is no feeding frenzy over this rare window into the Washington Post’s thinking.



  • Pundits say (or “Critics say”)
  • Probe (as substitute for “investigation”)
  • A rare window (unless we’re talking about a real window that is in fact rare)
  • Begs the question (unless used properly – and so rarely used properly that not worth it)
  • Outside the box/Out of the box (Ed: oh, I hated this when I was working!!!)
  • Little-noticed (that just means the writer hadn’t noticed it)
  • Ignominious end
  • Feeding frenzy/feeding the frenzy
  • Hot-button issue
  • Paradigm shift (in journalism, all paradigms are shifting)
  • Unlikely revolutionary (in journalism, all revolutionaries are unlikely)
  • Unlikely reformer (in journalism, all reformers are unlikely)
  • Rose from obscurity (in journalism, all rises are from obscurity)
  • Withering criticism (in journalism, all criticism is withering)
  • But reality/truth is more complicated (oversimplify, then criticize the oversimplification)
  • Shines a spotlight on (unless there is a real spotlight that really shines)
  • Situation is fluid (code for “I have no idea what is going on”)
  • Partisans on both sides

So, the next time there is fevered speculation (also one of the terms) about a little-noticed issue that I hope meets an ignominious end, I’ll be sure to have a paradigm shift before I write a withering criticism.

There, I said it (also one of the terms with the comment more self-important than “voicey”).