Blue sky thinking about game changing moonshots

I recently put out an all-points bulletin to PR firms to stop using the term ‘game changing’. Last week I added the term ‘moonshot’ to my growing list of comms terms that make me shudder and generally slam the delete button on a release in my inbox. I came across another doozy yesterday where I audibly groaned – a Greek shipping conference that proudly trumpeted its ‘phygital’ capabilities.

I decided to open up this debate about god awful consultantspeak terms on various social media channels and it seems I am not alone – the guff trotted out by comms teams clearly irks many of you as much as it does me. So here then is a short list of other phrases that deserve a thick red strikethrough.

Facilitate when you mean help. What’s wrong with admitting you need help?

Releases that start with “XXXX is pleased to announce”. No one cares if you’re pleased or honoured. Get to the point.

Paradigm shift – get a grip, it’s not.

Pivot – my teeth always grate when I see this one anywhere.

Blue sky thinking – sends storms through my brain.

Any reference to ‘leading’ from boilerplate paragraphs in press releases. It seems literally every single company across the globe is the world’s leader.

Climate sobriety – pass me the bottle, fast.

The hyperbole churned out by today’s public relations teams has me almost yearning for simpler times, the days when everything was just plain old state of the art.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. All these buzzwords & cliches remind me of that Orwell quotation:

    “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

    Well enough of my comments for today – I have some game-changing & revolutionary work to do in my garden that will usher in a new era of carbon-neutral vegetables 🙂

  2. So, has anybody else got a forward pack in their lounge room.
    Is there anyone in the UK who does not start every sentence with ‘So’?
    And why do Australians insist on double-dipping with lounge room and forward pack? A lounge is a room, and forwards in rugby form the pack. And why have football commentators started referring to full backs as ‘centre halves’, when half backs have traditionally been in front of the full backs?
    These examples are as horrible as the ones Sam has written about, but there is a special place in hell for people who refer to tugs as ‘tugboats’.

  3. Yup, I’m with Alan on the “tugboats” one (I’m a tug engineer). And why oh why oh why does Boris Johnson promote this “Roadmap” (not that he invented the term). What’s wrong with a “plan”?
    So, while I’m at it, how about ” . . . and so on and so forth”. Try ” and so on”, if you really must !

  4. Gentlemen– thank you for providing clarity on what does and does not pass the muster test in your lexicons. I’m just curious how you feel about “pathways” or “forward leaning”?? I wouldn’t want Sam to hit the “delete” button!! How about publishing a list of terms you find to be acceptable phraseology?:):)

    Thank you for the definition of forward pack! It’s basketball season with March Madness here, and American football ended with the Super Bowl, so I was puzzled!

    1. Pathways does not make me cringe – forward leaning on the other hand is in the kind of dodgy basket!

  5. “Moonshot” is freighted with an interesting dual meaning here. I’m sure the ostensible one is that of an “overarching, somewhat overly optimistic common goal.” Thinking back to the lunar initiative Kennedy declared in 1961, I think we can also unpack a sense of unity, sacrifice, and secondment of the profit motive toward something great whose rewards we can all bask in – whether the psychic gratification of sending humans to a celestial neighbor, all of the rapid technical progress attending it, or some combination thereof.
    Does the unprecedented convergence of public support, a driving imperative from government, and of course the contributions of many aerospace contractors have a clear analogue here? I’m far from convinced…

  6. A decade ago, during the initial years in the maritime industry, when I wrote a short profile for the company that starts with where we are based, what we do and who are our customers, it almost got struck off by the management. Too much resistance from within the organisation to move away from the “Leading”habits. It finally sounded like excessive-pride profile!

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