Words ... good, bad and ugly

Forbidden words

When writing, use specific words and terms. Consider the following words and terms forbidden (these are only a few of the many overused, yet weak, terms). They tell a reader — including your customers or clients — nothing, except that your vocabulary is limited.



You don’t want to alienate customers or clients, so keep the words you use in your company’s memos, pamphlets, advertising, etc. simple. Below are some bad — and good — words.

Bad                                            Good

  • airlifted                                      flown
  • ameliorate                                  improve
  • approximately                             about
  • commence                                  begin, start
  • conundrum                                 dilemma
  • copious or numerous                   many
  • docent                                       guide
  • due to the fact that                     because
  • enumerate                                  list
  • erroneous                                   wrong
  • finalize                                       finish, complete
  • prioritize                                    rank (as in a list)
  • pragmatic                                   practical
  • purchase                                    buy
  • spearheaded                               led
  • ubiquitous                                  common
  • utilize                                         use
  • viable option                               choice


Ugly words and their replacements

Of course, you should never use terms such as “messed up” or “goofed up” (as in “made a mistake”), “went missing” (as in “disappeared”), “diss” (as in “criticize”), “haggle” (as in “negotiate”), “hassle” (as in “bother”) or “pushy” (as in “assertive”).


More bad words/terms and their replacements

Don’t say: Say instead:
addressees you
assist/assistance aid/help
commence begin/start
implement carry out/start/do
in accordance with by/following/per/under
in order to to
in the amount of for
in the event that if
it is requested that please (or omit this term completely)
promulgate issue/publish
this institution
utilize/utilization use