Worst Word of the Year

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 list.

Photo of White House Press room podium

Political doublespeak dominated our 2017 list as things became seriously Orwellian in the US. At the top of the heap was the worrying ‘alternative facts', suggesting that politicians can be right even when they're wrong.

Full list

No 'joyments' in 'alternative facts', The Canberra Times

Worst word or phrase of 2017 is 'alternative facts', says Plain English Foundation, New Zealand Herald

'Alternative facts' named Worst Word of the Year, ABC News
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

From post-truth to pro-clarity, The Canberra Times

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

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

Christmas gifts for the famous, the infamous and Campbell Newman, Brisbane Times

Image of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin

'Conscious uncoupling' was our 2014 winner. Gwyneth Paltrow used this phrase to describe 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 the Year (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


Image of a line of snails moving forward

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

Full list


Nominate your Worst Word

Help us find our Worst Word of the Year. We're looking for deceptive, impenetrable or just plain ugly words and phrases that are new or newly popular. Common categories are corporate spin, doublespeak, euphemisms, buzzwords, jargon, frankenwords and mixed metaphors.

You can email us your nomination or post it to our social media.

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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.