Does your writing have impact?
Or are your words overused, used incorrectly, and/or meaningless?
Consider yourself banned from using these words and terms in your marketing-communications and business content:
1. Groundbreaking / ground breaking
To imply something is groundbreaking means that it is a first of something (e.g., Pasteur’s groundbreaking work in biology). Be honest with yourself – is your product really groundbreaking?
2. Thinking outside of the box
This is a cliché that refuses to die in the business world. Pull the plug (...speaking of clichés).
Literally means word for word, or without exaggeration. Too often, people use it incorrectly (e.g., “My speech literally brought the house down…”). Use this word sparingly, and only when you really, really mean something.
We often use leverage in lieu of “use” or “benefit from” (e.g., “We leveraged the skillset of the sales team to bring in a considerable profit.”). That’s not what leverage actually means. Use it properly, or not at all.
Nice is as blah as adjectives get. Don’t use it in your writing. Ever.
Do you host doggy pageants? Run a puppy mill? Are you talking about Seabiscuit? No? Then abandon all use of best-of-breed.
7. At the end of the day / For all intents and purposes
Technically, the end of the day is 11:59 p.m. If this timing does not apply to whatever you’re talking about, don’t use at the end of the day.
8. Leading-edge, leading provider, world leader, guru
Too often, businesses are leading providers, industry-leading or market leaders according to nobody other than themselves.
Before you use these superlatives to describe your ultra-fantastic business, products, services or executive team, make sure you have proof. You just may be asked for it someday!
As one Urban Dictionary entry puts it, impactful is a “non-existent word coined by corporate advertising, marketing and business drones to make their work sound far more useful, exciting and beneficial to humanity than it really is.”
That’s right: impactful is not a real word.
As a reader comments, utilize is “just another example of adding a ridiculous suffix to the end of a perfectly good word.” Another reader commented that utilize has “always struck me as a weak attempt to sound more formal or important.”
The general consensus: use use instead.
Honourable mention: "open the kimono"
I will never forgive the person or people who created and spread this one. It's gross and creepy. Do me a solid and don't use it, okay?
Let’s find new and more meaningful ways to communicate our thoughts.
And bring back actual impact to our writing.
What words and phrases drive you crazy? Comment below!
"Ottawa writer for hire" Lindsey McCaffrey is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and content strategist for businesses and non-profit organizations. Learn more about Lindsey here.