Writing tip: Get rid of euphemisms


Writing tip: Get rid of euphemisms

By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel

Writing tip: Get rid of euphemismsPutting euphemisms in your writing is like dragging the cutting edge of a knife across a rough surface. Both dull the sharp edges.

A knife with a dull blade doesn’t cut as well as a sharp one. And writing full of euphemisms doesn’t have the impact of just saying what you mean.

I’m old. But you can’t call me that, apparently. I’m a senior citizen. Or “older.” Isn’t “older” older than “old” — as in old, older, oldest? Not in the world of euphemisms and political correctness. And it’s not even polite, apparently, to notice that someone’s old enough to be called a senior citizen. Or old enough to be eligible for a senior discount. Being old isn’t something to be ashamed of. Unless you’re also old, I got here by living longer than you have so far. I hope you make it to where I am now and beyond. You’ll be old, too, if you do.

I’m old. And I’ll be old until I die. Then I’ll be dead. There are no value judgments in any of those words.

In the world of euphemisms, people don’t die. They pass away. Or just pass. And they’re not dead. They’ve left us.

People who can’t see are blind. Calling them visually impaired doesn’t improve their eyesight. People who can’t hear are deaf. Calling them hearing impaired doesn’t improve their hearing.

Used cars are now previously owned vehicles. Why?

Some companies refer to employees as associates or partners or team members. And some of them consider the word “employee” to be an insult. Really? What’s insulting about being an employee?

You get the idea, I hope. Maybe I’ve offended some of you. I hope not. I haven’t used any foul or derogatory language.

I’m not suggesting you go around insulting people by using derogatory labels to describe them. But I am suggesting you skip the euphemisms and just say what you mean. You’re writing (or speaking) will have more impact.

And, if you’re a fan of George Carlin, here’s a funny monologue about euphemisms:

We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?


Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 |

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