The Mueller Writing Blog

Blog posts, eBooks and other content marketing resources written by Heather Mueller

Avoid Hyperboles That Make You Sound Like a Schmuck

hyperbolesI’ve worked in a lot of industries over the years: public relations, journalism, marketing, nonprofits, government…you name it. No matter what type of writing I do, I’m always prepared for the possibility that someone involved in the approval process may decide the copy needs an extra “punch.”

They hit “track changes” in Word and start sprinkling in phrases and acronyms like “award-winning” and “ROI.” In a matter of minutes, their human-sounding web copy is transformed into an unreadable digest of jargon and buzzwords.

As a web copywriter, I come across a lot of these hyperboles and meaningless words. Next time you’re tempted to use them, here’s my advice:

Don’t.

Even if you’re in a very buttoned-up industry, your prospects are used to an online world where communication is increasingly personal and human. They can sniff out corporate speak. They’ll think you’re a schmuck.

Here are nine catchphrases that really make my skin crawl:

Unique
It’s seriously rare that a product or service is truly “unique.” Even when something is one-of-a-kind, this word has been so overused I’d sign a petition today to have it banished from American vocabulary.

Global leader
Oh yeah? Says who?

Innovative
Prove it. Unless you show me an industry gold medal for which you beat out thousands of competitors, I’m going to assume you slapped up this catchphrase.

Premier
Corporations and government agencies love this one.

World famous
Wow! And here I thought you were a local shop, without realizing millions of people are talking about your products in China and Australia.

Unparalleled
See my description of “unique.”

LLC and Inc.
I understand they’re sometimes necessary, but use them sparingly: Words like these just slow the reader down and make your sentence too long, too boring or both.

Unrivaled
We all know there are a gazillion options out there, and we want to decide for ourselves if you offer something that’s “unrivaled.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a 200-word blog post, a press release or your website’s homepage. Using these words will at best make your readers click away and at worst destroy your credibility.

Instead, try one (or all) of these proven techniques:

Get Specific
Do you really offer something exclusive? Then tell your prospects, in specifics, what makes you different from the competition.

Let Your Customers Do the Work
Happy customers are your greatest brand advocates. Put their glowing testimonials front and center.

Post Your Credentials
Skip “award-winning.” Your website visitors are going to be much more impressed with a list of actual awards, certificate badges and links to news stories highlighting your brand.

Encourage Reviews
Lucky enough to have lots of happy customers? There’s a good chance they’ll be willing to post reviews on Google Places and offer testimonials for your website.

So…what buzzwords make your skin crawl?

1 comment… add one
  • Deborah Nalbone

    September 3, 2013, 6:57 am

    Loved your article. It’ll make me think next time I’m writing ads or creating flyers.

    Reply

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