“Familiarity breeds contempt.”
It’s ancient wisdom that still rings true today. Aesop’s fables aren’t all sunshine and roses, and when this maxim is applied to the realm of copywriting, it creates the basis for better, more meaningful messaging.
In marketing, the best writing is clear, direct and specific. Waxing poetic with meaningless fluff, to sound intelligent or artificially inflate the word count, has the opposite impact. Readers get bored and the intended message gets lost in the word salad.
To a degree, some of this “filler copy” we’re urging you to avoid seems like it’s worth having in your messaging because it has a familiar ring and sounds like it should be included. But that’s because they are clichés you’ve definitely heard before and will definitely hear again. These phrases will do nothing but “help” your business blend in. So, if you want your printed collateral, digital ads, social posts and web content to stand out, do yourself and your prospects a favor by respecting their time by eliminating the following clichés from your copywriting quiver.
You can find “industry leader” splashed across the “About” page of company websites throughout a myriad of industries. You can usually spot this cliché used in conjunction with a company’s years in the business. An example: “With more than 40 years’ worth of experience, Business ABC has grown to become an industry leader, creating meaningless clichés.”
Not only is this an arrogant way to introduce your organization, but it also reveals nothing of use about your business. What exactly does “industry leader” mean? Higher quality? Quicker turnaround?
Why is your company an industry leader? Tell your audience the reason you’re at the top of the game, and you’ve successfully given them something tangible to consider as they weigh doing business with you. If data can be included in the specifics, then all the better! But don’t forget to also speak to the needs of your target audience.
This phrase is once again a victim of oversaturation, making it meaningless. Every business focuses on their customers (or at least pretends to). Try specifics instead, telling your target audience what they can expect in-store or within a partnership with your business. Armed with that information, they will be much more inclined to give you a try.
We treat our customers like family
This is a phrase that alludes to the Cleaver-family idyllicism of the 1950s. The truth is families are often messy, full of petty fights and hurt feelings. In spite of this, most families hold together through the power of familial love, but they are relationships that should not be replicated in the professional world. Customers are not, in fact, your relatives, and you should not treat them like they are. In most cases, people in a professional setting are more courteous and accommodating to customers than they would be to members of their own family.
This is the definition of unique: “being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else.” Ironically, the word has been used so often, for so long, that it’s lost its own “unique” meaning. It’s become a crutch when creativity runs out. Don’t be the lazy writer who can’t be bothered to conjure a better, more specific descriptor. Spend some time figuring out how to articulate what distinguishes what you sell from what your competitors do. Then, incorporate it into content.
- “This body moisturizer is formulated with a unique blend of ingredients.” (BLAH)
- “This body moisturizer is bursting with apricot, carrot juice and aloe vera to nourish and restore skin.” (BOOYAH)
And last, but certainly not least, we reach the ultimate copout of copywriting: “very.” It’s the laziest adverb/adjective of all time. Removing it will make a sentence more concise without taking away the intended meaning. If you’re tempted to use “very” to strengthen your adjectives, stop and replace both words with a more specific adjective. For example:
very accurate—> exact
very clean—> spotless
very good—> superb
Always strive for stronger copy
The phrases we’ve highlighted in this article became clichés because they’re a writer’s easy way out. Left unchecked, they’ve spread like weeds across the copywriting industry and are keeping creative language from seeing enough of the sun. Like a dad patrolling his lawn in spring, you must eliminate their usage without mercy. Remember to keep your marketing clear, direct and specific, making it easier to understand and more attractive to those who see it.
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