Media releases

Just announced: Worst words and phrases of 2016

Each year, we uncover examples of appalling public language. We compile the biggest offenders in our December Worst words list.

In post-truth 2016, we became increasingly resigned to shameless euphemism and buzzwords, doublespeak and spin. When phones exploded or shut down unexpectedly, their manufacturers explained this was a 'battery cell issue' or due to 'controlled ambient air'. 

Read the media release for the full short list and winner. 

Worst words and phrases of 2015

Our 2015 short list included corporate spin doctoring, military doublespeak, political gaffes and euphemisms. Bombs were ‘lethal defensive weapons’, a ‘swarm’ of refugees tried to escape war-torn Syria, and Canberrans were threatened by ‘snake-related injuries’. Meanwhile, a ‘giftorium’ full of ‘gifticians’ came to save ‘Swiftmas’.

Read the media release for the full short list and winner. 

Worst words and phrases of 2014

2014's short list was rich in euphemism and spin. Funding cuts were 'efficiency dividends', a mine fire was an 'open cut event', a footballer 'suffered the physical result of a bite in a collision' and beachgoers were warned of the 'potential for dangerous aquatic organisms' (also known as sharks).

To see our short list and find out the worst words of 2014, read our media release.

Worst words and phrases of 2013

2013's short list included corporate buzzwords (like 'ideating' and 'fabrics of personal engagement') and fancypants terms (like describing a long film as a 'durational work' or a sale as an 'all out clearance event').

To find out the winner of our worst word of 2013, see our media release.

Worst words and phrases of 2012

In 2012, our short list included international entries (like 'repositioning actions', 'legitimate rape' and 're-mode', and home-grown horrors (such as 'goodification', 'coordinated possession regime' and 'single handed downward action latching device'). 

To see the winner and the Mixed Metaphor of the Year 2012, read the short list.

Read the full media release.

Twitter session a highlight of Sydney Writers' Festival

ABC's Big Ideas has voted Modified Tweet one of the best sessions at the 2012 festival.

Neil James (@drplainenglish) chaired a fascinating discussion with comic and columnist Catherine Deveny (@catherinedeveny) and ABC broadcaster Mark Colvin (@colvinius). Hear how they use Twitter, and what the audience had to say — by tweet and old-fashioned voice box. 

Watch on the ABC website here.

Worst words and phrases of 2011

2011 gave us the euphemistic spin of 'negative good' (bad) and 'gestational carrier' (surrogate mother). It gave us corporate evasions such as 'fugitive emissions' (pollution) and 'free to roam' (hens crammed 20 per square metre). The economy gave us the new cliche 'two-speed', the ugly 'MYEFO' and a candidate for the worst prospectus title ever issued. 

The mixed metaphor of the year came (of course) from a sports coach, the academic world contributed 'antinomies', and we had to endure liberal doses of 'hero', 'chillax' and 'inland tsunami'. 

But what took the prize for the worst word or phrase of 2011? 

Read the full media release.

For more information, please email

Dr Neil James is Plain English Foundation's executive director and co-author of Modern Manglish.

Cartoon from Modern Manglish, a book by Neil James and Harold Scruby

© Alan Moir

  King on writing

Two pages of the passive voice — just about any business document ever written, in other words, not to mention reams of bad fiction — make me want to scream.

Stephen King