Worst Words of the Year

Since 2010, we have curated an annual list of the worst words and phrases to highlight the importance of clear public language. Tell us your worst words to win, or check out past winners below!

An excited woman sits at a laptop.

Want to win $250?

Tell us your suggestion for the Worst Words of 2022. The word or phrase should be new or newly prominent this year, and can include doublespeak, buzzwords, jargon or spin. 

To enter, comment on one of our social media posts about Worst Words - click on the Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn icons at the top of this page.

Find out more in our media release, or view the competition terms and conditions.

Worst Words 2022 competition, ABC Radio Sydney

Photo of White House podium flanked by US flags

We've taken a look back at the annual Worst Words winners from 2010-2020 to select the Worst Words of the Decade, and there was a clear winner.

2017's 'alternative facts', the now infamous phrase from the Trump administration, stood out in a decade that saw democracy decline.

Full list

The worst words or phrases, 6PR

‘Alternative facts’ worst phrase of decade, The Standard

Photo of friends standing with drinks

2020 was the year of COVID-19, and it generated some less than welcome words. The South Australia Government eased some coronavirus restrictions and allowed people in bars to drink while standing up.

But then they dubbed this 'vertical consumption.'

Full list

SA’s ‘vertical consumption’ a standout winner for Worst Words of 2020, InDaily

Photo of natural gas plant

As the moves toward cleaner energy gained momentum in 2019, the US Department of Energy decided to ramp up the spin. It rebranded natural gas as ‘freedom gas' and trumpeted its efforts to help export ‘molecules of US freedom' to the world.

Full list

America's 'freedom gas' awarded worst phrase of the year, Bloomberg

Plain English Foundation 'palm strikes' Australia with 2019's worst words, 6PR

Photo of the terminator

2018 was a particularly poor year for corporate doublespeak and spin. When our national public broadcaster used the phrase 'external career development opportunities' to discuss firing its staff, it joined a long list of institutions incapable of using simple English to describe something difficult.

Full list

Ex-ABC chief coined 2018's worst phrase, SBS News

Ex-ABC boss's 'silly corporate euphemism' wins 2018's worst phrase, Canberra Times  

Technology spinners shine in 2018 'Worst Words' gongs, IT News

The Worst Word of 2018, 6PR

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

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

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

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


Free writing tools

Keep your writing sharp with our tips, tools and quizzes.

Create an account to access free resources for registered users.

Survive the language jungle

Need to ideate some impactful solutions? Try our suitspeak jargon generator, or read Shakespeare and Wordsworth in the language of today. Then find out if your colleagues are following our guide to writing officialese!

Modern Manglish book cover

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.