Weather words: Cone of concern. People are bracing. Blanketing. Dampening. Spotty mix. Icy patch. Wintry mix. Barreling. Lashing. Churning. Taking aim. Little blustery. Frozen stuff. Ridge of high pressure. Packs a wallop. Packing winds of. Packing a punch. Gusty winds. Heavy rain. A line of showers. Intermittent. Periods of rain. Severe. Isolated. Spot. Strong. Sun is starting to peek back in. Pop-up shower. Stray and scattered and residual showers. Hit-and-miss. Notches. Hooks. Locally heavy. Couple sprinkles. Rumbles of thunder. Breathing a collective sigh of relief. Weather-related disasters: Shredded lumber. Twisted metal. Reduced to rubble. Comb through the rubble. Wide swath of destruction. Raked. One of the lucky ones. Mother Nature’s fury. One small snapshot. Worst he’s/she’s ever seen. Gone in an instant. Deadly storms barreled through. Ripped. Captured on camera.
Social unrest words: Reckoning. A watershed moment. Tipping point. Turning point. Game-changer. Real change. Not just treat the symptoms. Substantive change. Time for healing. Remove the cancer. Rush to get back to normalcy. Systemic changes. Highest ideals. Speak your truth. Boots on the ground. Seats at the table. In the room. Power to inspire and heal. Having a conversation. Root causes.
Pandemic words: Spike. Path to safely return. Everything has changed. The new normal. Invisible enemy. Amid the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic/outbreak. Ramping up. Upends. Peak/wave/crest/surge. Front-line. Heroes. All in this together. Nibble around the edges. Sugarcoat. Worst yet to come. Shared sacrifice. Our hearts go out. Scalable systems. Message resonates. Move forward. (Not as easy as) flipping a switch. (This is going to) take a while. Warlike. Dire scenario. Piece of the puzzle. Needle in a haystack. Crucial window. Uptick.
Groundhog Day, every morning: The Internet is full of perils, scamsters and child predators. You can’t watch your children enough! Don’t be fat! Really! Too many people are fat! Here’s a new recipe. Watch these well-paid athletes play sports. Sharks are dangerous, and they’re showing up in all sorts of places. Sharks are unpredictable, and vicious! You never know what the weather will do next! It’s crazy! It’s unpredictable! Here’s our forecast. As President Trump says, “the world is a very dangerous place!” Look at these weird people doing crazy stuff! Here’s a new study. It’s good to know, but more study is needed. Here’s a new book! Caught on camera, and gone viral. Dogs!
Old people: [insert name] has no intention of slowing down. [[ I, on the other hand, have every intention of slowing down! ]]
Traffic words: Lane blockage. It’s heavy now. It’s volume right now. You’re heavy on. You’re stacked up on. Sunshine slowdown. Slow jam. Stacked up for a look. Stop and go. Pockets. Slow pockets. Pockets of volume. Building volume. Hitting/tapping/on your brakes. We’ve got some volume. The usual volume. Bumper-to-bumper. Injury accident. Trouble-free. On the brakes. Crawling. Jamming. A lingering backup. In the clearing stages. Flowing fine. Still a good run. Typical delays. Clusters. Slowing down in the stretch. Smooth sailing. Keep your eye out for …
Crime (and tragedy) words: Emotions are running high. Small, tight-knit community. Rattled. Hearts go out to. Make sure a tragedy like this never happens again. Close-knit community. Devastating impact. Loved ones. When something like this happens. No obvious connection to international terrorism. On the ground. Visibly shaken. Thoughts and prayers. Shots rang out. Closure. Grief process. Active scene. On edge. Haunting. Nightmare. Ultimate sacrifice. The community is reeling. Asking the public to come forward. Families left waiting for answers. Escalated from there. Tragic news. Raise awareness. Their desperate time of need. Breathing a collective sigh of relief. Keeping a close eye on. Bad apples. Unsuspecting public. Pretty scary. A frightening story.
TV and radio: Opening up and speaking out and taking a stand and reaching out and setting the record straight. What’s trending online. We’ll continue to monitor this breaking story/situation/news. We want to know what you think. Hard questions. Real concerns. The discussion continues at … . We’re watching out for you. This all started … Prompted a warning … How can you protect yourself? I think it’s worth pointing out to people … Don’t take a chance! Making a difference. … has learned. On the ground. Count on us. It’s impossible to know.
Sports: Take us through that moment. Tell us what was going through your mind. What went through your mind? Talk to me about. How’s that feel? What was special about that moment? Paint that picture.
Words about writers/writing: Indelible. Visionary. Important. Incomparable. Riveting. Heartbreaking. Gripping. Inimitable. Magisterial. Meticulously reported. Endearing. Elegant. Wickedly funny. Powerful. Provocative. Compelling. Erudite. Incisive. Unflinching. Award-winning. Trenchant. Important voice. A new important voice. Vital voice. Engaging. Not afraid to ruffle feathers. Step on toes. Fearless. Won’t hold back. Packs a punch. [from 2022 Pulitzer blurbs->] Unflinching. Piercing. Ambitious. Disturbing. Courageous. Relentless. Masterfully. Sensitive. Persuasive. Learned and stylish. Powerful yet intimate. Raw and urgent. Comprehensive and consistently riveting. Heightened sense of place. Brutally honest and immersive. Mordant, linguistically deft. Tightly-wound. Affecting, deeply reported. Gripping. Sharp and searing. Mesmerizing. Concentrated and powerful. Haunting. Visceral. Evocative. Measured. Persuasive. Striking. Unique. Urgent. Intimate. Masterful. Riveting. Quietly powerful. Resonant, Deeply researched. Nuanced. Elegant. Poignant.
Tired adjectives: Beleaguered. Embattled. Iconic. Iconic. Iconic. Struggling. Venerable.
Empty, overused superlatives: Devastating. Awesome. Great*. Amazing. Excellent. Whew. Whoa. Wow. Fascinating. Must read. Gutted. Heartbreaking.
Lame or overused transitions, ledes, phrases: No doubt about it. Not if they have anything to say about it. You can’t make this stuff up. Take a look. Long story short. Needless to say. Here’s a feelgood story. There’s good news and there’s bad news. Today, we are also learning more. This story will bring a smile to your face. If you think [whatever], think again. Think twice (as in “parents should think twice.”) Don’t look now, but … It’s official. It’s all happening at … This all happened at … Not so fast! Not so much. You’re not alone; he (or she) is not alone; they’re (!) not alone. Imagine this. Imagine, if you will. That’s right, [name]. Now, [then about something in the past]. That’s such a great question! That’s a great question. So … One thing is sure. Reporting live. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. No one knows what caused. Heartbreak doesn’t begin to explain. It’s really tough to explain. Counting on one thing and one thing only. Amazing story of survival. In my mind … Take a deeper dive.
Clickbait: [number] things you need to know. [see Nieman Lab’s post on “effective” headline phrases for social media at www.niemanlab.org]
If you missed reporting a story: This week/month/recently [subject] quietly [verb] … We have learned …
Retail: Tis the season. In full swing.
Miscellaneous wonkery, currently in vogue, cliches, blather, meaningless, overused, annoying and otherwise unclassified: Are the walls finally closing in on [insert name/Trump]? When all is said and done. Building the plane while flying. Abundance of caution. Perfect storm. All they can do. Kick the can down the road. Uncharted territory. No guarantees. What was your take? Punch above your weight class. What does your gut tell you? Speak volumes. Speak your truth. Help me process my reality. Not slowing down (in reference to an old person who is slowing down). And we should point out that … Bad apples. Being heard. Pivot. Heads roll. Continue the conversation. It speaks volumes. Incredibly rewarding. Men and women who defend our freedoms. Ghosted. Gaslighting. Trolling. Spoofing. Bothsidesing. Whataboutism. Step up to the plate. The gloves are off. Don’t hold your breath. That’s the thing. Officials are taking no chances. He/she is taking no chances. Asleep at the wheel. Trains run on time. Double down. Come to the table. Reach across the aisle. A step too far. Retreating to opposite sides of the room. Hold firm. Behind the eight ball. Resonate. Check every box. Wake-up call. Next level. Move the needle. The next big horizon. On a path. Down the rabbit hole. Baked in. Unring the bell. Run out of runway. At the end of the day. I will say this. Let me just say this. Let me ask you this. Having said this. With that said. Let me say this about that. But I would tell you this. Our employees are our greatest asset. A level of transparency. In a public space. Strategic planning that engages all stakeholders. Getting into the weeds. In the weeds. Finger on the pulse. Reframing the narrative. Ramp up. Ratchet up. Put [place] on the map. In his (or her) wheelhouse. Di minimis deconfliction. Create a buzz. On the ground. Can’t rest on our laurels. Stay ahead of the pack. Cautiously optimistic. Outside the box. Game changer. Raise their game. Hard to miss. Push back. Engage. Reengage. Disengage. An opportunity to engage in a conversation. Raise awareness. Hard questions. Real people. Real concerns. Humanize. That’s the $64/$64,000/$64 million question. On the map. On point. Takeaways. Key takeaway. Some question … Front and center. Lit a fuse. Lit up social media. Twitter lit up. Went viral. Getting a lot of buzz on social media, including Facebook, Twitter … Going to make history. Impact your brand. Break down walls. Silos. With all due respect. To be honest. Chance of a lifetime. Once in a lifetime. Having said that … You know what’s weird? Strange? Didn’t mince words. Received a tough reception. In my mind. Kids’ eyes light up. Emotional reunion. Gift of life. Bond for life. No detail too small. Distinctive sound. Strive for perfection.
Originally published Oct. 24, 2015. Updated periodically, most recently on April 2, 2023.
* Back at St. X in Louisville, Ky., I remember Brother Aquinas, one of my English teachers, raging against use of the word “great,” describing it as essentially meaningless. He was right. And great. A valuable essay on the word appeared in the Boston Globe in the run-up to the 2016 election, when Trump popularized the meaningless “Make America Great Again” slogan. Here’s a link to the essay: www.bostonglobe.com