5 things news people should stop saying

A wise, old weatherman once told me, “write like they talk and talk how they listen.” In this case, “they” are the audience.  Most of their friends don’t talk like news anchors and reporters.  So, when you say these things you’re subliminally telling the viewer, “I’m a robot.”

If you remove these phrases from your scripts, you will make a better connection with your viewers. People will say things like, “you’re such a strong writer” or “you’re so natural on the air.”

I also recommend you follow Tired TV Terms on Twitter.

1. “They fled on foot…”


WHY IT’S DUMB: Have you ever heard anybody say that who wasn’t on TV? Years ago, a standup comedian did a bit on this.   The punchline was something like, “could you imagine someone saying, ‘Oh, look what time it is! I gotta flee!”

SAY THIS INSTEAD: ran away, took off, took off running.

2. “The white stuff” or “the wet stuff”


WHY IT’S DUMB: You wouldn’t call the Sun “the yellow thing,” would you? I know you’re trying to avoid using the same word over and over but nobody talks like that.

SAY THIS INSTEAD: Snow or rain.  That’s it.

3. “So-and-so is speaking out.”

speaking out

WHY IT’S DUMB:  Theoretically, anybody who appears in the newscast is speaking out. “Police are speaking out about the accident on Main St., today.” “Jim’s speaking out about the weather.”  At the same time, nobody actually speaks out. Also, how exactly does one speak out? Bottom line: it’s lazy writing.

SAY THIS INSTEAD:  Just tell the viewer what the person said or did.  Instead of “A local woman is speaking out about working conditions at the widget factory ” try something like, “A local woman says the owners of the widget factory are abusing and ripping off workers.”

4. “Cup of Joe”


WHY IT’S DUMB:  Legend says the phrase was coined during WWI when Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels banned alcohol on Navy ships.  Anybody who was alive when “cup of Joe” was clever passed away long ago.

SAY THIS INSTEAD: Coffee.  Period.

BONUS TIP: Stop reporting on studies about coffee. While we’re at it, throw out chocolate and red wine too.

5. “Unique”


WHY IT’S DUMB: There is a very good chance you’re using it incorrectly. When something is unique it is the ONLY one in the world.  There is no other.

SAY THIS INSTEAD: If something is truly unique, then say so.  But if it’s just cool, different or clever then say that.


Firearm.  It’s a gun.

Fatalities. Deaths.

Dead body. A live body would be a person.  Just say “body.”

All for a good cause.  Just tell us what they did and who it’s helping.

Those, as in “helping those affected by the floods.”  They’re people.  Call them people.

23 thoughts on “5 things news people should stop saying

  1. A few more:

    Suspect – what is the person suspected of doing? Say that.
    Victim – how was the person victimized? Say that.
    Vehicle – car, van, truck, suv
    Transported – taken
    Locate – find
    We’ve got – just say, “we have”

  2. LOL! All so true…BUT I’m sure we’ll keep hearing a “live body” “speaking out” about the “white stuff” while they sipping a “unique” “cup of joe” before they “fled by foot,” for years to come!! haha

  3. Stop using the word “deceased.” Use “dead” instead. There’s nothing wrong with the word “dead.” It just sounds as if you are trying too hard to be politically corrrect.

  4. In broadcasting you want to get as much information across in the least amount of words. This applies to some of the reason why broadcasters use the phrases they do but I agree with some of these need to be challenged/changed!

  5. 1, Stop saying,or allowing the word BASICLEY OR HOWEVER YOU SPELL THE WORD
    2. A person was hit in the mouth not busted in the mouth or recieved a busted lip.The lip was injured. cut. cut open,
    3. A person’s house who’s house was robbed and front door was opened up his door was not busted open it was broken into.
    A person who was robbed 6 months ago was not recently robbed.
    well I could go on and on

    • You shouldn’t even comment here. It’s “basically.” You’re using a phone or computer, you’re criticizing media jargon, and you couldn’t take a minute to google how to spell basically? Please. Secondly, a home is never robbed. Only a person can be robbed. You should effectively be banned from commenting.

  6. “As you can see behind me” WRONG. Chances are unless the reporter is a one man band, there’s often a camera person, sound tech and maybe a field producer on site. Not sure when and where this started, but it’s incorrect. “Behind us” is more appropriate.

    • Actually, it would be in front of the camera person if it was behind the reporter, which is why the reporter phrases it that way.

  7. “Hunker down.” Far too much hunkering down going on. Every time it rains a lot. I’ve heard lots of newspeople talk about hunkering down. I have never heard an actual human refer to ANYTHING as “hunkering down.”

  8. An on the air news person should refrain from using “cop jargon” simply because the cops do it. Most people don’t. For example, calling a suspect a “perpetrator,” when you should call them a suspect, alleged robber or shooter. Seldom if ever will you hear a person in the general public use or even know the definition of a “perpetrator.”

  9. I agree that saying “those” for “those people” is a poor substitution, but so is “people”. Yes, the news is fundamentally about people, but that doesn’t mean one should repeat that same word every minute! TV writers are especially fond of using “people” as if it were a pronoun, able to be thrown in any sentence to replace some other noun.

    Don’t do that. Use the other noun. “Residents of the Swan Lakes neighborhood” is better than “People from Swan Lakes”, unless your news brand is “We sound like people talking in the street.”


    “Residents” has more meaning than “people” because it expresses that they’re bound together by something affecting the place they live. “People from Swan Lakes are protesting at City Hall” sounds like some random assholes got together and decided to raise a fuss.

    Calling them “residents” sounds different. It means that something is affecting their entire neighborhood. By definition, people bound together by a common effect, can’t be random. (No word yet on if they’re assholes.)

  10. The one that I hate the most is: “Turned themselves into police.” You can’t turn yourself into police. You can, however, surrender to police.

    • LOL! I had to read that 3 times before I understood what you were saying!

      FYI – It would be “Turned themselves in to police,” not “into police.”

      I was thinking “who can turn themselves into police? Don’t you have to go to an academy to do that?”


  11. My pet peeve is “residents”. Who says that in conversation?!! “The residents of Atlanta?” No, “The people living in Atlanta”.

  12. I also love the “you won’t believe what happened” tease.
    Unless some sprouted wings and flew away…or possibly transformed into a dinosaur, then I’ll probably believe it.

  13. “Investigators tell us a the suspect entered the store and demanded money. When the victim complied, the suspect fled on foot.”
    Who speaks like this? …Other than a police department public information officer.

  14. How about ‘went missing?’

    You mean, he or she disappeared? Did they just make up their mind one day and went missing?

  15. thank you for posting this … especially the DEAD BODY thing … arrghgh.
    now then, FALL DOWN should simply be FALL (i never saw a person fall UP).
    and anchors, PLS stop thanking your reporters … it’s their JOB.
    finally, how about reinstating first person verb TO BE … police ARE looking for suspects …. not police looking for suspects …

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