GenericWords-Cover

Those are the words that immediately form on my lips when I read 80% of all marketing copy online. Just about everyone is guilty of using trite, worn-out phrases that they’ve either seen competitors use or have read in another publication. They’re phrases which have been said so many different times by so many different people that they’ve lost almost all meaning and have become white noise to anybody reading or hearing them. When you’ve only got a few paragraphs to get your point across to your audience, don’t sandbag your copy with generic words or phrases.

While this blog post won’t reinvigorate all your marketing copy and make it stellar (though we are happy to do that), I wanted to take the time and put an APB out on the most common and habitual offenders of cliches, dud-words and all around generic-isms, organized into categories of ascending mediocrity. If you see any of these, you are authorized to use excessive force to aid in their termination.

The “benefit that isn’t really a benefit”

When some people hear “describe the benefits of your product,” they think “tell me that your product is great.” They then come up with these words and phrases which are nebulous, hollow and do nothing:

Awesome

Innovative

State-of-the-art

Industry-leading

High quality

Economical

Quality workmanship

Cutting-edge

Easy to use

Budget-friendly

Next-generation

Tailor-made

Notice most of these phrases have hyphens. Did you know “hyphen” is actually Latin for “I’m a boring writer?” Trash the dead language and these phrases, and focus instead on why your customer should care about all those adjectives.

The “Our Company Kicks Ass But You’ll Never Know Because We Have Bad Writers”

Your company is probably pretty cool, and you’re probably pretty cool. It’s a shame that your coolness will likely be obscured by bad copy, making you look like just another bland business doing bland things. If you can’t describe your own company in an interesting and unique way, why should people trust you to do much else? Here are a few awful phrases I see way too often, and what makes them so awful:

  • The leader in _____: This is vacuous. What does “leader” mean? Do you provide the most things, or the best things? Who crowned you the leader?
  • Results-oriented: This is an adjective that applies to literally everything ever done by a human being. Claiming to be results-oriented is like claiming to be made of meat.
  • [Buzzword Salad]Buzzwords are bad, more so when paired off with another buzzword and forced to mate. “Integrated solutions” or “impactful synergy” are to effective copy what cold porridge is to effective copy.
  • The [Name] Difference/Advantage – A lot of these examples mean absolutely nothing. This one means the most nothing. If you say “See the Johnson Difference,” what you’re really saying is “I have no idea what makes my business special.”

The Straight-Up Lie

These are the deep circles of cliche Hell – the places that involve gnashing of the teeth and all that cool Dante stuff. Banished here are the cliches that accomplish the double whammy of a) imparting no meaningful message whatsoever and b) actually perpetrating falsehoods. These are the cliches that qualify themselves with “once in a lifetime!” or “never before seen!” or “our best [thing] ever.” You’re not going to fool anyone with that kind of headline-chasing, inauthentic copy, and worse you hurt what credibility you do have with your audience.

A footnote to my entire tirade on cliches: sometimes you will use them, and it will be ok. The truth is, cliches are cliched for a reason: they take usually cumbersome ideas and package them into a nice bite-size chunk of delicious information. But the ferocity with which I’ve disavowed cliches is the same ferocity you need to have in choosing your words. There will almost always be a better, more unique, and more “you” way of talking to your audience, and whipping out a cliche is the lazy way out. Be cognizant of the language you use, the one-off phrase you give less than a thought to can be the one that paints you unfavorably to a customer.

Roundpeg is an Indianapolis content marketing firm.