Worst words

Each year, we uncover examples of appalling public language, from political doublespeak and marketing jargon to bad business buzzwords. We compile the biggest offenders in our December Worst words list.

Photo of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Noxious Frankenword 'Brangelexit' topped our 2016 list. Combining Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's celebrity moniker 'Brangelina' with the recent 'Brexit' vote, this elevates a celebrity divorce to the level of a major world event. 

Full list

Plain English Foundation announces worst word of 2016, SMH

Worst words include alt-right, Brangelexit and bigly, 3AW radio

Image of a car muffler with exhaust coming out

In a particularly bad year for corporate spin doctoring, 'possible emissions non-compliance' topped our 2015 list. Volkswagen’s CEO used this phrase to describe what was actually cheating when regulators tested how much pollution its cars emit.

Full list

Not so English, 2SER radio

The worst words, phrases and spin of 2015, ABC The Drum

Image of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin

'Conscious uncoupling' were 2014's worst words, after Gwyneth Paltrow used them to announce her separation from husband Chris Martin.

Full list

'Conscious uncoupling' judged worst phrase of 2014, ABC News

Image of blindfolded businessperson walking off a cliff

In 2013, HSBC got our vote when it announced it would be 'demising the roles of 942 relationship managers'. This meant that nearly 1000 employees were losing their jobs.

Full list

The worst words of 2013, ABC Local Radio

Image of a chicken and chicken products

When KFC chose 'goodification' as the slogan for its marketing campaign, we had to choose it as our worst word of 2012 (along with its cringe-worthy cousins - 'gooderer', 'goodest' and 'goodify').

Full list

Image of dark smokestacks

2011 was a banner year for corporate evasion and euphemistic spin, with 'fugitive emissions' (more commonly known as pollution) topping our list.

Full list

'Inland tsunami', 'fugitive emissions' most hated new phrases, Herald Sun

'Chillax' on 'negative good' words, The Logan Reporter 

Image of a line of snails moving forward

2010 was filled with Manglish and gobbledygook, but we couldn't get past 'moving forward' as our worst words of the year. Julia Gillard repeated this slogan more than 20 times when she announced the federal election.

Full list

'Moving forward' voted 2010's most annoying phrase, news.com.au

Anderson: time for plain English, Adelaide Now 

Free writing tools

Keep your writing sharp with our tips, tools and quizzes. Create an account to access free resources for registered users.

Survive the language jungle

Need to ideate some impactful solutions? Try our suitspeak jargon generator, or read Shakespeare and Wordsworth in the language of today. Then find out if your colleagues are following our guide to writing officialese!

Modern Manglish book cover

For more fun with language, get your copy of Modern Manglish, by Neil James and Harold Scruby, with illustrations by Alan Moir. Navigate linguistic traps for the unwary, from sports talk to fancy-pants job titles.