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50 Words Your Press Release Can Do Without

The press release can be one of the most powerful tools in a communicator’s kit. A well-written release informs the media about your products or services and can lead to greater exposure for your brand.

Too often, however, press releases get bogged down by insider jargon, techno-babble and overused corporate lingo that turns off readers. It’s hard enough to get an overworked reporter’s attention with a release in the first place. There’s no need to make it worse with bad writing.

SHIFT Communications cleverly illustrates the problem with its game Bad Press Release Bingo (#PRBingo). This game, which uses SHIFT’s 50 Most Used Words in Press Releases (see graphic below), can be played either solo or with colleagues. All you need is a timer and some of your most recent press releases. If your release contains enough overused words, then you win the game. Of course, winning means that you might have a clunky press release, so temper your celebration. And start putting more effort into better writing.

You can play in two different ways: solo, or with colleagues.

Solo Game

  1. Get out your smartphone or other timing device and start a timer.
  2. Open up your most recent press releases from your newsroom or the wire service you use.
  3. Begin reading the press releases and ticking off words on your game board as you see them.
  4. When you hit #PRBingo, click the Yell BINGO button and stop the timer.

After you’ve played this game a few times, change up the words you rely on in your press releases. Add more variety. Your goal is to take longer and longer to “win” at #PRBingo with each successive press release you write, until you stop winning.

Group Game

  1. Get out your smartphone or other timing device and start a timer.
  2. Have a colleague or friend also open up this page in a web browser. (they’ll get a different card)
  3. Open up a separate tab with the latest press releases from your company.
  4. Decide which one of you (or a third, neutral player) will start reading the press releases.
  5. Press the Yell BINGO button to let the world know you “won” #PRBingo.

Bonus round: Make two teams; have one team read your press releases and another team read your competitors’ releases. See which team hits BINGO fastest – then improve your writing until only your competitors’ press releases “win” at BINGO.


Methodology: Disclosure and Methodology: SHIFT Communications downloaded a random sample of 77,901 English language press releases published only during calendar year 2014 from BusinessWire.com, PRWeb, MarketWired.com, and PRNewsWire.com. Using custom-built software, SHIFT staff programmatically removed boilerplate and navigational text, then counted 16,079,228 words in the body text of the press releases and assigned frequencies of appearance to each. After compilation, SHIFT staff manually removed frequent, non-descriptive language articles (a, and, the, etc.) and nouns (About, Contact, Call, etc.) to create the list. SHIFT Communications was the sole sponsor, underwriter, and conductor of the research. Data was collected during the period 12/4/2014 – 12/16/2014 using automated tools. The BINGO software was originally developed by the WNYC Data team and published under an open source license and updated by SHIFT’s Marketing Technology department.

Bad Press Release Bingo