Over the years, and even more so recently, I’ve had clients tell me that they want their new content to actually ‘say things’ rather than just consisting of empty marketing drivel. These drivel words may have once been effective,  but they have now lost their meaning, and only serve to set off alarm bells in the reader’s mind, before being instantly dismissed as manipulative, meaningless jargon.

Avoiding the use of such complicated and confusing words can often mean simplifying the copy, and that is sometimes hard for a copywriter to get his/her head around (I know I struggled for a while). What? They don’t want me to throw around all these complex terms and try to weave together tricky sentences?

The simple fact is that moves like these are as transparent as cling film. Readers/potential customers don’t want to be spoken to by someone who is trying to dupe them. They want to be told why they need the product, why this product is the best, and what evidence there is to support both of these things.

Some phrases and words to avoid (in my opinion)

Solution

When I think of empty marketing words, solution pops into my mind first, and I’ve worked with many people over the years who despise every letter of this monstrosity.

When you first encounter the word it seems harmless enough – effective even. After all, whoever uses it is saying that they can solve your problems; they have the solution. So why is it a horrible empty marketing word?

Well, in my opinion, it is not the use of this word that is the problem, but more people’s reliance on it. I often see solution used without being accompanied by an explanation as to why the product/service offers you the perfect solution. The reader is just expected to believe that because the word solution has been used, everything is hunky dory; no need to worry, just whistle a happy tune as you make your way to the checkout.

I’m not saying that the word solution is never used without being backed up by evidence telling the customer why said solution is the best and what exactly it consists of; I’m just saying that, more often than not, it is used as a get out. There are others who feel my pain.

Don’t even get me started on integrated solutions.

Last chance

Oh yeah of course; there is nothing better than throwing a watered-down form of blackmail the way of your reader.

I generally don’t like phrases or words which alienate the reader, and I just think that upon reading last chance in a shop or online, the potential customer will feel pressured, perhaps making a decision he/she regrets, and not being too happy about it.

Although not very common at all these days, phrases like this can also be used in a not-entirely-truthful way; for example, there may be several days left for the customer to purchase the product. Scaring customers into thinking that a certain product won’t be available for much longer might have worked many years ago, but consumers these days are much too savvy and technologically endowed to fall for such trickery.

Unrivalled

I only like to use this word when it is true. It can be found in copy all over the place (I saw it today while casually browsing – there was no way to know if it was actually true), but if it is unsubstantiated, then astute readers will feel condescended and patronised, as if you are trying to pull the rug over their eyes.

With this said however, if it is true – i.e. if you are writing for an industry-leading company – then it is a great word, and should definitely be thrown in.

Win-win

So the customer can’t lose out in any way? Hmmmm that’s a bit unrealistically positive, and the reader will snuff it out. There is no need to be dramatic. If the product is good and does what it says, then you can just tell the reader this – it’s far less suspicious.

Some words/phrases I like

Productive

If I’ve learnt one thing, it is that describing things is all well and good, but what a reader really wants to know is how a product is going to benefit them; it’s much better to describe something as productive than amazing or brilliant. Again it helps if this is followed by a feast of evidence attesting to the productivity of which you speak.

Time-saving/time-efficient

The first option here might not be the greatest phrase in the world, nor the smoothest read, but it is clear and concise – the reader is in no doubt as to its meaning and can move on quickly, knowing that the product has got this area covered.

Economical

This is still quite a fancy sounding word, but is effective nonetheless. Everyone wants a product which saves them money or doesn’t make them run out to the shop every 5 seconds to stock the product up on whatever it needs.

Eco-friendly

The last decade or so has seen an unprecedented push for a greener planet, and so this phrase, if applicable to the product/service you are writing about, should be one of the stars of the show.

Efficient

Again, when using this word it must be backed up by evidence, but I think it is just on the right side of the ‘marketing crap’ line. Compare this adjective with an adjective like incredible; the latter is telling you nothing. Why is it incredible? Indeed, it may be incredible because it is efficient. As a compromise, I can’t see anything wrong with incredibly efficient, as long as this claim is substantiated.

If you can tell a reader why a product is so efficient and how this efficiency translates to helping them and delivering tangible (ohhh another salesy word – but I couldn’t resist) benefits, then you’ve done your job as a copywriter.

Concluding remarks

When writing content, a copywriter has the chance to say everything the company wants to get across, and everything the potential customer wants to hear. Why waste that chance by spurting out drivel?

Good copy places emphasis on words that are actually relevant. There is no need to choose a big dramatic adjective like miraculous, when a simple one such as productive tells the reader a lot more about how the product is going to work for and benefit them.

 

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