Corporate Eye

2011 List of Banished Words

Are you using any of the words and phrases in the 2011 list of banished words from Lake Superior State University in your branding and marketing materials?  You might want to stop.

Every year since 1976, Lake Superior State University compiles a list of words and phrases that are so overused, misused, or useless that they should be banished from the English language entirely.  In fact, the concept was copyrighted by the University in 1987.  The list is compiled through nominations and interviews.

The 2011 list of banished words includes 14 words and phrases but the top honor — the number one word to be banished in 2011 — goes to “viral.”

Check out the complete list of 2011 banished words from Lake Superior State University:

  1. Viral
  2. Epic
  3. Fail
  4. Wow factor
  5. A-ha moment
  6. Back story
  7. BFF
  8. Man up
  9. Refudiate
  10. Mama grizzlies
  11. The American people
  12. I’m just sayin’
  13. Facebook / Google (when used as verbs)
  14. Live life to the fullest

Do any of these words and phrases stand out to you as overused, misused or useless for marketing and branding purposes?  Does using these words in a marketing or branding campaign equate to an epic fail?

The trick for marketers is keying in on words that resonate with target audiences.  A word that is deemed overused or misused by one market segment might be the “it” phrase for another segment.  The Lake Superior State University list of banished words is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but the results shouldn’t be ignored entirely.  Clearly, there is a segment of people who detest the use of “Google” as a verb, but there are undoubtedly other segments that expect the act of conducting an online keyword search to be referred to as “Googling” something.

Again, you need to match your words to your audience as much as you match your message.  Ongoing research is essential to ensuring you use the best words for each audience segment.  Thanks to the global online conversations that happen on the social Web, it’s easier than ever to listen to your target audience, learn how they communicate and the words they use, and match your marketing copy to those preferences and behaviors.

Bottom-line, just because specific words and phrases irritate some people doesn’t mean those words and phrases are dead.  You just need to tread more carefully when using them.  Just as you wouldn’t use words like “hip” and “groovy” to a teen audience, you shouldn’t use words like “fail” and “BFF” to an audience of seniors if you want to achieve maximum response rates.  It’s common sense, but it can make or break a marketing message.

What word or phrase do you think should be banished in 2011?  Leave a comment and share the words that drive you crazy.

The following two tabs change content below.
Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

You shouldn’t use words like “fail” and “BFF” to an audience over the age of fourteen either.

Comments are closed.