Four Words You'll Be Tempted to Use In Your Writing — But Shouldn't

By on July 19, 2012 in Current Events with 6 Comments

You’ve got to try our revolutionary abdominal exerciser.” “A new and revolutionary Federal Farm Program will reward farmers…” “Our revolutionary shower liner…” (Yes, all real, even the shower liner.)

Lazy ad writers have always hidden behind this type of hollow, meaningless language. But today it has become commonplace in all sorts of writing – even in content written by federal agencies.

If you don’t want to raise your readers’ suspicions about whatever you’re asking them to support, believe or buy into, don’t use these words or phrases in your articles, presentations or other types of writing. 

1. Leading 

XYZ Company is a leading provider of brass plumbing fixtures for hotels and casinos.”What does that mean, exactly? Is XYZ Company stating here that it’s the top seller of brass fixtures for hotels and casinos? Is it claiming it’s the most popular with hotel and casino buyers? Does it mean the company has the highest ratings from product reviewers?

No. When they use “leading,” XYZ Company isn’t actually saying anything. And today’s highly sophisticated customer knows this.

Instead of a vague term like “leading,” find a quantifiable phrase that actually means something. Some examples: 

  • The largest brass fixture manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest.
  • The most widely used brass fixtures on the Las Vegas strip.
  • The brass fixtures of choice for five-star hotel chains on both coasts.
  • The longest-standing makers of brass fixtures in the United States.

2. Premier

We’re the premier software training company.

”What?

Like leading, “premier” is a vague term that leaves your seen-it-all, heard-it-all reader wondering if your organization actually has any real accomplishments to its credit.

Your reader will know intuitively your company chose such a meaningless word as “premier” because you couldn’t use quantifiable terms like “largest” or “rated number one by…” That means your competitors must be outperforming you – by every metric worth writing about.

Find a claim you can legitimately make, even if it’s small.

A helpful rule: If you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying it, don’t write it.

If you met someone on a plane, you’d probably feel natural saying that your company is the largest brass-fixture manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest. But would you say that your business is “the premier maker of brass fixtures?” “A leading software training company?”

3. State-of-the-art

Your reader knows enough about your industry to want the specifics of why your product is state-of-the-art. So using that term leaves your reader completely unsatisfied – and suspicious.

Suppose you sell a network device that uses the new 802.11n standard and can handle 8Mbps of data, while your competitors use an older wireless protocol that can transmit only 6Mbps. In this case, you can legitimately make the claim that your product is state-of-the-art.

But wouldn’t your readers prefer to read the specifics – the latest wireless protocol, the higher data rate – than merely to be told yours is “state-of-the-art?” And if you claim to have a state-of-the-art product and don’t clearly state what makes it so, won’t people wonder if it really is?

4. Revolutionary

We make a revolutionary soap substitute.” Yep, that’s a real company’s marketing copy.I can think of very few products and services are that truly revolutionary. For example, there’s the Internet (which has changed the way hundreds of millions of people live) and the smart phone (ditto).

If your solution or initiative or program is even a slight improvement over the existing offerings or current processes in use… or even slightly less expensive… those can be tremendous benefits. So state them clearly and concretely in your writing.

© 2016 Robbie Hyman. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Robbie Hyman.

About the Author

Robbie Hyman is a professional communications and public affairs writer. He has 15 years’ experience writing for nonprofits, small business and multibillion-dollar international organizations.

Robbie has written thousands of pages of content, including white papers, speeches, published articles, reports, manuals, newsletters, video scripts, advertisements, technical document and other materials. He is also co-founder of www.MoneySavvyTeen.com, an online course that teaches smart money habits to teenagers.

Robbie is available as a freelance writer for federal agencies. Visit RobbieHymanCopywriting.com for more information.

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