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11 Killer Buzzwords That Will Doom Your PR and Marketing Resume

July 29, 2015 Jeff Bradford

8068763429_86a6623910Looking for a job in the PR and marketing business? Keep in mind that effective communication is the cornerstone of this industry. If your resume or cover letter is poorly written, it doesn’t matter how many impressive internships your resume lists or how many glowing referrals you can tack on. You’re already dead.

Because the marketing industry is often seen as a sexy and fun industry, it is deluged with resumes. Yours needs to stand out, but not for the wrong reasons, like using any of these 11 killer buzzwords.


  1. People Person

Using this killer buzzword probably means that everything you know about PR and marketing came from watching TV sitcoms, where the PR person is the girl who goes to parties. A friendly, compelling personality can certainly be a plus in this business, but only if it’s matched with intelligence and the ability to make stuff happen – traits that do not leap to mind when you hear “people person.”


  1. Literally

Nine out of 10 times you mean “figuratively” – that is, the opposite of “literally.” And if your writing literally communicates the opposite of what you mean, then you literally cannot communicate – and communication is literally essential in PR and marketing.


  1. Comprise

Because you probably mean “compose,” and if you don’t know what words mean, it’s unlikely you’re much of communicator. (See #2) I assume college communications departments are largely composed of professors who are members of a fan-club comprising lovers of the word “comprise,” because I see it a lot of it these days. (Parts compose the whole. The whole comprises the parts.) I think people think it’s a more sophisticated way of saying, “compose.” It’s not.


  1. “It’s” when you mean “its,” and vice versa.

The quickest way to identify a lack of writing talent is seeing confusion about “it’s” (a contraction for “it is”) and “its” (the possessive of “it.”) When we find this, we usually assume that the college degree is fake – or it took at least six years to obtain, which is about the same thing.


  1. Emoticons

So, you couldn’t come up with a word to describe your feelings? And you’re a great communicator?


  1. Unique

“Unique” literally (see #2) means “one of a kind,” not “really cool.” So, if you tell me you’ve done something “unique,” chances are that you actually haven’t – and I start wondering what else you’re lying about in your resume.


  1. Awesome

Thanks to extreme overuse, this word means nothing – or everything. Either way, it communicates no information, other than the paucity of your vocabulary (and, by extension, your lack of interest in original thinking).


  1. Impact

This word encapsulates all that is awful about the way 21st Century humans relate to each other. We don’t affect something, we impact it. And the effect we have is an impact. All of this smashing and mashing sounds painful. It’s the vocabulary of pretentious thugs.


  1. Utilize

What is the difference between “use” and “utilize?” One word is used by people who want to communicate clearly. The other is utilized by those who think intelligence is measured by the number of syllables in your words. It ain’t. Pomposity has its place, such as in satire. Anywhere else, and the joke is on you.


  1. Non-Anglo-Saxon words

English is an amalgamation of words from many languages, but especially Anglo-Saxon (spoken by the Germanic tribes who invaded England when the Romans left), Norman French (thanks to the Norman Invasion in 1066) and Latin (the language of the Church). So, in many cases, we have three ways of saying the same thing, such as “ask” (Anglo-Saxon), “question” (Norman French) and “interrogate (Latin), or “goodness,” “virtue” and “probity,” or “rise,” “mount” and “ascend.” Since good writing is clear writing, it’s often wise to rely on good old Anglo-Saxon. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, of course. There can be many reasons why “virtue” or even “probity” is a better choice than “goodness,” such as the shades of meaning these words have acquired over the centuries, but it should be a conscious choice. Using a $10 word when a nickel one will work doesn’t impress anybody. In fact, just the opposite. Like wearing a tuxedo to a pig roast, you just look foolish.


  1. Business Jargon

Because at the end of the day it’s never a best practice, and certainly not a win-win on a go-forward basis, to try to leverage your skill set and hit all the touchpoints in a synergistic fashion with an inane vocabulary that proves you can’t think outside the box.

24 comments on “11 Killer Buzzwords That Will Doom Your PR and Marketing Resume
  1. Sean Sullivan says:

    LOL – so let me get this straight! So your telling us how You don’t like our writing by putting together a snarky know-it-all opinionated piece from the point of view of “In PR and writing: I’m better than you.” I’d love to see your cover letter….so I could throw it out!

  2. LB says:

    If anyone knows throw away phrases and jargon it’s marketers. When I happily left my last job I couldn’t bear the influx of Marketing professionals who would say “deep-dive” and “boil the ocean” in every meeting. Yawn.

  3. Kate Paine says:

    Excellent post! This also applies to LinkedIn profiles, too. I’ll add another thought: it is not a best practice to cut/paste your resume-speak to your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is an opportunity for you to describe something thoughtfully and in a more conversational tone. It’s okay to take some language from the resume but do so carefully.

  4. Ledile says:

    Thanks for the article :)

  5. Hannah Watterson says:

    Don’t forget people who say “infer” when they mean “insinuate”.

  6. Ned Christensen says:

    I’m gonna have to find a sentence in which to utilize the word “probity.” Just because.
    Really good points, but I have to wonder how may resume screeners recognize most of this. Nobody taught them any language skills either.

  7. Brenda Greene says:

    Please, new professionals, heed this advice.

  8. Gigi says:

    Thank you for also ridiculing the word leverage. That one almost makes me violent.

    • Kate Paine says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I work with people to revise their LinkedIn profiles and I can’t tell you how many of these killer buzzwords are used. Then, if I change them to a more creative – but active – word, they change it back. Once I explain, they get it. “Leverage” is one such word as is “impact” and I literally have a visceral reaction.

  9. Ellen Booth says:

    I was about 5 minutes into my career when I realized that the word “unique” had been rendered useless by vapid over-use. I think of this word and its synonyms as lazy words. Another lazy word? Beautiful. Another? I think I’ll start pulling from your list of 11.

  10. Alvin Wright says:

    I hate, hate, hate jargon. Did mention I hate jargon. Thanks for the article.

    • Brenda Greene says:

      I battle daily with my marketing colleagues over jargon. They outnumber the PR department 8:1. Can you say David v. Goliath?

  11. Susan Heard says:

    These are killers in nearly any profession. “Prior” is the one that makes me crazy – especially at the end of a sentence: “She was married three times prior.” Ick! In my industry it is often said that customers can “access telephonic services”. Can’t they just call?!

  12. Sabiana says:

    Nice blog. You have pointed out alot of mistakes, which one would tend to ignore because it’s happened a number of times in the past. But that means accepting it instead of pointing them out and helping those repeating the mistakes twice over. The other common one is quiet and quite. See that surfacing very often .

  13. Nancy says:

    I just don’t get how anyone can get it’s/its wrong. Drives me bananas. Grammar school rule: if there is an apostophe, it has replaced a letter that is missing from the word.

  14. Rick Harris says:

    AP style adherents will quibble on comprise and praise as tight writing the phrase, “college communications departments comprise professors.”

  15. Maria Iadinardi says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog. Sadly, it’s difficult to find great writers and thinkers in today’s fast-paced world of abbreviations, hashtags, and auto-correct.

    Let’s get back to basics and clear, simple language.

    • Gigi says:

      I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that I will be teaching an entire college class on grammar for students who hope to land a career in PR. I’ve learned they don’t teach grammar in high school anymore. What do they learn in high school now?

  16. Carrie Wirth says:

    I laughed out loud at your take on “utilize”- a word I hate. You left out “prior” – another one that makes me crazy.

    • Tom Smith says:

      Thanks for “use” versus “utilize.” It’s astounding to see and hear the number of supposedly well-educated people using this word.

  17. Heather Ailara says:

    Love this post. I literally…no, figuratively?? No, LITERALLY…laughed until my sides hurt. I intend to utilize these guidelines with colleagues to raise the bar on quality writing in our industry niche. Thank you!

  18. Sharon V. says:

    Excellent read! I was very relieved to see I had none of these 11 “errors” in my resume. But I did have to go back and check just to make sure. Thank you.

  19. Jan (Barnette) Amos says:

    I really enjoy reading the blogs on your website. This one is the best yet. And I’m going to quit writing now lest I be critiqued!! I’m an accountant – not a writer <>

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