Avoiding Election Clichés

August 17, 2012

Have you no desire to "press the flesh" with a candidate? Were you grateful when Romney announced his choice of running mate simply because you were sick of the term "veepstakes"? Do your ears shut off when reporters talk about Scott Brown "barnstorming" in his barn jacket? Every election season, journalists who know better find themselves using the same old clichés. On Aug. 13, the Associated Press issued guidelines for election language — including a list of overused terms.

> > Watch the conversation on Beat the Press with host Emily Rooney and panelists Joshua Benton, Callie Crossley, Dan Kennedy and Adam Reilly.

From the Associated Press release:


ahead of - before

rainbow colors - avoid red, blue or purple for the political leanings of states. Use Democratic-leaning, Republican-tilting or swing-voting, etc.

barnstormed - traveled across a state campaigning or campaigned across XYZ.

hand-to-hand campaigning - seeking support in face-to-face meetings with voters.

hat in the ring - a candidate decided to run for an office.

horse race - closely contested political contest.

laundry list - the candidate has ideas, proposals, etc.

messaging - the candidate’s pitch to voters.

pressing the flesh - shaking hands is preferred.

rope line - the physical barrier that separates a candidate from the audience. Instead, the candidate shook hands and posed for photographs with the audience.

state nicknames - avoid them in favor of the state name.

stump speech - campaign speech at a routine appearance (or standard or regular campaign speech)

testing the waters - considered entering the race or considered running for XYZ.

took his/her campaign to - specify what the candidate did.

veepstakes - the competition to be a candidate’s running mate.

war lingo - use criticized instead of attacked, or choose a better verb to describe what the candidate is doing, i.e., challenging, doubting, etc. Also avoidable: launch an assault, take aim, open fire, bombard.

war chest - use campaign bank account or stockpile of money.

white paper - a document of policy positions distributed by a campaign.

What's your most-hated election cliché?

WGBH News is supported by:
Back to top