Annoying Weasel Words

You see experts use these words when interviewed on TV news programs. It’s strange, for these are, for the most part, really smart people who ought to know better.

My advice to you: Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that, because these high profile interviewees respond to reporter questions with these weasel words, you should follow their example. What are some examples?

  • “Look . . .” My initial reaction to this rejoinder is to tell them, “No, you look.” This little word sounds confrontational, often for no good reason.


  • “That’s a good question.” When I hear this in a simulated interview during a media training workshop as I assume the role of the reporter, I reply with, “I try not to ask too many bad ones.” That seems to get the point across.
  • “So . . .” This has turned into an epidemic. There is absolutely no good rationale for beginning a reply like this. Some people use it to buy time, but there are better ways to do this. For instance, try something like, “My thought on that is . . .” or “Here’s what our research found.
  • “No comment.” Really? This is the single most inartful way of responding to a tough question. If you are forbidden to comment because of legal or personnel reasons, say so — then bridge right back to your message to get the interview back on the track you desire.
  • “Listen . . .” See “Look” above. This is no way to persuade viewers or reporters.
  • “My best guess is . . .” You might as well quit now. Guessing only gets you into trouble.
  • “That’s a gotcha question.” If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the studio.

What other weasel words drive you to distraction when you hear them during media interviews?



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