The story behind Washington Post Outlook section’s ‘Things We Do Not Say’ list

Romenesko readers love the “Things We Do Not Say in Outlook” list from the Washington Post. “People have sent us great phrases to add,” says Outlook editor Carlos Lozada.

He tells us the story behind his list of words and phrases to avoid:

I think it started a couple of years ago as a joke among the Outlook staff, whenever we’d see some tired, only-in-journalism phrase in a piece someone submitted, or in a Post story, or in another newspaper/magazine/site/blog. “It’s going on the list!” I’d say, even when there was no actual list. Then one day I just started writing them all down in a Word file, and it kept growing.Unknown-1

Maybe about a year ago I was talking to Anne Kornblut (now our deputy national editor) and turned out she was keeping track of her own pet peeve phrases. So we added a bunch more, and she and I still email each other maybe once a week when we see a new gem in some high-profile story somewhere. I’d say at least a dozen Post staffers have contributed lines to it. Once you start looking for them, they’re everywhere. I even wrote an Outlook piece last month about the unending calls for “a national conversation.” It’s sort of a hobby now.

I’m definitely not the only person to do it. (Just follow Mark Leibovich on Twitter and you’ll see he’s a master of pinpointing tired lines and ideas). But the reaction to your post has been hilarious — people really get into it on Twitter and have sent us great phrases to add: I can’t believe we hadn’t put “the new normal” or “game changer” or “at the end of the day” on the list. I hear some people have distributed the list in other newsrooms. Of course, it’s gotten so long that now I’m paranoid lots of the lines are still making their way into Outlook. “Banned” is a strong word. A list like this is more honored in the breach. (Hey, there’s another one.)

* “At a crossroads,” “at first glance” and other phrases to avoid (jimromenesko.com)


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