Words to avoid at ALL costs.

by wordsandthebees 37 replies
I follow a well-known copywriter over here in Aus named Kate Toon, and I’ve recently read an article where she has advised to avoid the word VERY at all costs, in all copy.

Instead, she recommends:

Absolutely, acutely, amply, astonishingly, awfully, certainly, considerably, dearly, decidedly, deeply, eminently, emphatically, exaggeratedly, exceedingly, excessively, extensively, extraordinarily, extremely, greatly, highly, incredibly, indispensably, largely, notably, noticeably, particularly, positively, powerfully, pressingly, pretty, prodigiously, profoundly, remarkably, substantially, superlatively, surpassingly, surprisingly, terribly, truly, uncommonly, unusually, vastly, wonderfully.

I’d be very interested to know what words you can recommend avoiding at all costs?

Sorry, I mean incredibly interested!
#copywriting #avoid #costs #words
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  • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
    Sometimes it's just the right word.

    Depends on the audience and the situation and the voice you're writing in and a variety of other factors.

    Some will tell you it's a weasel word (it is very weak, descriptively speaking, but so are some of her suggestions). I'll tell you sometimes the word "****" is the perfect word and there are those who disagree with me.

    Just make every word carry its weight. If it's there to do very little, it shouldn't be there.

    Easiest way to do that? Minimize the use of adjectives. Descriptive verbs will coax your audience into compliance.
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    • Originally Posted by angiecolee View Post

      Sometimes it's just the right word.

      Depends on the audience and the situation and the voice you're writing in and a variety of other factors.

      Some will tell you it's a weasel word (it is very weak, descriptively speaking, but so are some of her suggestions). I'll tell you sometimes the word "****" is the perfect word and there are those who disagree with me.

      Just make every word carry its weight. If it's there to do very little, it shouldn't be there.

      Easiest way to do that? Minimize the use of adjectives. Descriptive verbs will coax your audience into compliance.
      I completely agree with you, Angie. Sometimes **** is the only word that will do!!
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  • Profile picture of the author havplenty
    Adjectives and adverbs of any kind will keep you poor. If you must, use them infrequently.
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  • I figure you gotta be veeeery careful with that whole bannin' deal.

    Personally, I blame Mark Twain an' those Strunk & White bozos.

    Between 'em, they stripped the frickin' dictionary clean in half.

    Seems you can't use adjectives, adverbs, whole bunchesa words — all because they are evil an' will perish your readers' brains.

    Stoopid thing is, somea the best stuff we got is fulla all the evil.

    Like Satan said — "when you deploy evil strategically an' sensibly, it is almost as good as holiness."

    (Or mebbe that was Buddha — I will go check my atlas.)

    Like Angie says, long as each word does the biz, who cares a pukin' baboon?
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    • Profile picture of the author Fred_Acker
      Originally Posted by Princess Balestra View Post

      I figure you gotta be veeeery careful with that whole bannin' deal.

      Personally, I blame Mark Twain an' those Strunk & White bozos.

      Between 'em, they stripped the frickin' dictionary clean in half.

      Seems you can't use adjectives, adverbs, whole bunchesa words — all because they are evil an' will perish your readers' brains.

      Stoopid thing is, somea the best stuff we got is fulla all the evil.

      Like Satan said — "when you deploy evil strategically an' sensibly, it is almost as good as holiness."

      (Or mebbe that was Buddha — I will go check my atlas.)

      Like Angie says, long as each word does the biz, who cares a pukin' baboon?

      Beautifully written!
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  • Profile picture of the author darren lim
    Hi, those list of words, do you mean to recommend to use or not to use? Sorry I think I may have missed out something here..
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  • Profile picture of the author Junaid khawaja
    There are number of things we need to look at when selection the right combination of words. The rule of thumb is: words that sound to your readers like "being sold out to" or being "manipulative" should be avoided at all cost.
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    • Profile picture of the author darren lim
      Originally Posted by Junaid khawaja View Post

      There are number of things we need to look at when selection the right combination of words. The rule of thumb is: words that sound to your readers like "being sold out to" or being "manipulative" should be avoided at all cost.

      Thanks Junaid. Do you any list that I can make reference with? For example someone once told me not to use the word "spam" no matter what. Even if it's to tell the readers that we will not "spam" your email with the email you have subscribed..

      Thanks...
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      • Profile picture of the author Junaid khawaja
        Originally Posted by darren lim View Post

        Thanks Junaid. Do you any list that I can make reference with? For example someone once told me not to use the word "spam" no matter what. Even if it's to tell the readers that we will not "spam" your email with the email you have subscribed..

        Thanks...
        Hi, if you ask me, I take a different approach here. Instead of cramming and creating a check list of words that should be avoided, I replace low-intensity words with high-intensity words. Research has shown that words with higher intensity evoke greater emotional response (selling is all about spurring the right emotions of your prospect). To help you out I have attached a reference wagon wheel I sometimes use to delete low-intensity words from my copy.
        Hope that helps.
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        • Profile picture of the author darren lim
          Originally Posted by Junaid khawaja View Post

          Hi, if you ask me, I take a different approach here. Instead of cramming and creating a check list of words that should be avoided, I replace low-intensity words with high-intensity words. Research has shown that words with higher intensity evoke greater emotional response (selling is all about spurring the right emotions of your prospect). To help you out I have attached a reference wagon wheel I sometimes use to delete low-intensity words from my copy.
          Hope that helps.
          Hmm sorry but I can't seems to find any attachment.. But thanks for the advise
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          • Profile picture of the author Junaid khawaja
            Darren, the attachment is visible if you view the forum in classic mode. In modern mode, attachment is not visible - it's some type of glitch in the forum.
            Hope that helps.
            Junaid
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  • Profile picture of the author neshaword
    I wish there was only one, lol. I talked to some of my colleagues. You write and you simply fail to notice. Yet, some words or expressions get inside your fingers. It's like an addiction. I remember how difficult for me it was to reduce the overuse of "on the one/other side," "in addition," "additionally," and the list goes on and on. Also when I hear/learn a new catchy word I have to use it, very often with not too much consideration for the context. What can I say, the wonders of fluffiness, lol. Thanks for sharing. Nice. Cheers!
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    • Originally Posted by neshaword View Post

      I wish there was only one, lol. I talked to some of my colleagues. You write and you simply fail to notice. Yet, some words or expressions get inside your fingers. It's like an addiction. I remember how difficult for me it was to reduce the overuse of "on the one/other side," "in addition," "additionally," and the list goes on and on. Also when I hear/learn a new catchy word I have to use it, very often with not too much consideration for the context. What can I say, the wonders of fluffiness, lol. Thanks for sharing. Nice. Cheers!
      My addiction is to the word 'however'. I can't stop using it. I take it out, use a full stop, start a new sentence and then go back and put my 'however' back. I know it's wrong, but it just feels so right!!
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  • Profile picture of the author gingerninjas
    Interesting, it's hard to avoid that one. While I would probably be hard pressed to steer clear of specific words all together, I'd probably take the path of being aware of overused words and focusing on steering away from these or replacing with more effective words. It is certainly food for thought.
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  • wordsandthebees,

    Originally Posted by wordsandthebees View Post

    I’d be very interested to know what words you can recommend avoiding at all costs?
    words from gurus
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    • Originally Posted by ThePromotionalGuy View Post

      wordsandthebees,



      words from gurus
      There's a word I have great disdain for!
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    Here are some commonly used words that lack force because their
    meaning is too ethereal:

    It” – State what “it” is rather than leave “it” for the reader
    to figure out. This word can often be replaced by what ‘it’
    represents or stands in place of.

    Quality” – This has a similar meaning to “personality”. We often
    hear people say that someone has personality. But everyone has a
    personality whether good or bad. The same holds for quality.
    Every product or service has some quality which the customer will
    be the ultimate judge of.

    Superlatives such as “tastiest, best, fastest, strongest,
    superior, minimize, optimize”. The problem with these words is
    that they instill doubt in the readers because these claims
    appear unsubstantiated. These words lack power because they are
    not measurable.

    Take the word “superior” for example. What criterion or
    measurement was used to judge this product as superior and by how
    much?

    Solution” – This word cannot stand on its own. If you are
    selling a product or service it is also obvious that you are
    selling the solution to a problem, so state what the solution is
    rather than just using the word.

    Technology” – This word is commonly used to suggest innovation
    and newness. But customers have little concern about the
    technology that is behind the products they buy. They are only
    concerned about the benefit they derive from these products and
    services.

    How many drivers are really concerned about the technology that’s
    under the hoods of the vehicle they drive? They are really only
    concerned that the vehicle is reliable and gives them some social
    status.

    Difference” – Rather than stating that you are different from
    your competitors state the difference instead. Just saying
    “different” means little and is just filling space. The statement
    “We make all the difference” doesn’t leave the prospect more
    educated than before reading your sales message.

    Consider the following advertiser’s blurb:

    “We make all the difference because of our superior quality
    and solutions we offer.”

    It’s like junk food – a lot of flavor but zero nutritional value.
    This statement means little because it’s not specific at all. It
    creates more questions than answers and leaves the reader totally
    confused. And this is the last thing you want to do to a
    customer.

    -Ray Edwards
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    • Originally Posted by Raydal View Post

      Here are some commonly used words that lack force because their
      meaning is too ethereal:

      It” – State what “it” is rather than leave “it” for the reader
      to figure out. This word can often be replaced by what ‘it’
      represents or stands in place of.

      Quality” – This has a similar meaning to “personality”. We often
      hear people say that someone has personality. But everyone has a
      personality whether good or bad. The same holds for quality.
      Every product or service has some quality which the customer will
      be the ultimate judge of.

      Superlatives such as “tastiest, best, fastest, strongest,
      superior, minimize, optimize”. The problem with these words is
      that they instill doubt in the readers because these claims
      appear unsubstantiated. These words lack power because they are
      not measurable.

      Take the word “superior” for example. What criterion or
      measurement was used to judge this product as superior and by how
      much?

      Solution” – This word cannot stand on its own. If you are
      selling a product or service it is also obvious that you are
      selling the solution to a problem, so state what the solution is
      rather than just using the word.

      Technology” – This word is commonly used to suggest innovation
      and newness. But customers have little concern about the
      technology that is behind the products they buy. They are only
      concerned about the benefit they derive from these products and
      services.

      How many drivers are really concerned about the technology that’s
      under the hoods of the vehicle they drive? They are really only
      concerned that the vehicle is reliable and gives them some social
      status.

      Difference” – Rather than stating that you are different from
      your competitors state the difference instead. Just saying
      “different” means little and is just filling space. The statement
      “We make all the difference” doesn’t leave the prospect more
      educated than before reading your sales message.

      Consider the following advertiser’s blurb:

      “We make all the difference because of our superior quality
      and solutions we offer.”

      It’s like junk food – a lot of flavor but zero nutritional value.
      This statement means little because it’s not specific at all. It
      creates more questions than answers and leaves the reader totally
      confused. And this is the last thing you want to do to a
      customer.

      -Ray Edwards
      Thanks, Ray,
      This is great information - the word 'solution' in copy has always grated on me and now I know why - it's an empty word with no use. This has been printed and will be used as a reference point for future copy.
      Thanks again!
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    • Profile picture of the author timexer
      Great tips! Thanks! I see those words everywhere in the marketing world and they indeed are often junk with zero "nutritional" value.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    It’s like junk food – a lot of flavor but zero nutritional value.
    While I entirely agree with what you wrote above, there's one thing to remember....

    People buy junk food all the time....they buy in spite of health warnings or bad ingredients or greasy fingers. Sometimes junk food writing...sells.
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    • Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

      While I entirely agree with what you wrote above, there's one thing to remember....

      People buy junk food all the time....they buy in spite of health warnings or bad ingredients or greasy fingers. Sometimes junk food writing...sells.
      But they always regret it afterwards, right?
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      • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
        Originally Posted by wordsandthebees View Post

        But they always regret it afterwards, right?
        I don't know about you, but I will NEVER regret gummy bears.

        I will seriously consider stabbing someone for really good gummy bears (not Haribo).
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        • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
          Originally Posted by angiecolee View Post

          I don't know about you, but I will NEVER regret gummy bears.

          I will seriously consider stabbing someone for really good gummy bears (not Haribo).
          Haribo Sugar Free are THE gummy bears...

          when you want to keep co-workers away from your desk for the day.

          I guarantee it works (at least for the 20 minutes of the day you are not in the lady's room)...

          GordonJ

          PS. Not theory, a personal testimony, HA!
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          • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
            Originally Posted by GordonJ View Post

            Haribo Sugar Free are THE gummy bears...

            when you want to keep co-workers away from your desk for the day.

            I guarantee it works (at least for the 20 minutes of the day you are not in the lady's room)...

            GordonJ

            PS. Not theory, a personal testimony, HA!
            Black Forest gummy bears are my fave.

            But duly noted on the Haribo sugar free - I am now debating having a sign that warns people of deadly gummy bears, proceed at own risk.

            Thanks Gordon. LOL
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    • Profile picture of the author Raydal
      Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

      While I entirely agree with what you wrote above, there's one thing to remember....

      People buy junk food all the time....they buy in spite of health warnings or bad ingredients or greasy fingers. Sometimes junk food writing...sells.
      Kay, I think you have things switched around. The copy being compared to junk
      food is different to the advertising for junk food. Junk food sells because the
      sales copy for junk food is not like junk food.

      -Ray Edwards
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  • Profile picture of the author Rose Anderson
    I really have to watch my use of really. It can really get out of hand quickly.

    And yes, the stuff they put in sugar-free candy can be really deadly. (Also, from personal experience.)

    Rose
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  • Profile picture of the author gurutard
    I love when people make lists of words you should and shouldn't use.

    Use whatever words you want to use. Words don't lose meaning just because they're being used often. People say they lose meaning and everyone is tired of hearing them, but how do you know? Have you actually interviewed everyone? No. You're just making a list of words you're sick of seeing and pushing them off on other people.

    No one is going to hire you based on the list of words you do and don't use.

    And if you use any of these words in place of "very" I assume you're writing some kind of purple prose and I'm just gonna go do something else.
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  • Profile picture of the author trobo
    There aren't many of those words I would use in place of it, because most of them are just too big and clunky. I like trying to make my messages as concise as possible.

    Besides, most of them sound like you're trying way too hard to impress.

    Copywriting is supposed to sell, not impress others with your literary skills..
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    • Originally Posted by trobo View Post

      There aren't many of those words I would use in place of it, because most of them are just too big and clunky. I like trying to make my messages as concise as possible.

      Besides, most of them sound like you're trying way too hard to impress.

      Copywriting is supposed to sell, not impress others with your literary skills..
      I'm inclined to agree with you, Trobo.

      My general guideline (although this can be altered depending on the project of course) is 'stuff not fluff'

      People just don't want to read a hundred extra fancy words when one word will do. Simple.
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  • Profile picture of the author jonbowsir
    This rule is just good writing.


    I think in 6th grade, I had a teacher say "very" is lazy. So this post makes sense.
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  • Profile picture of the author drewgood
    One thing I learned was that regardless of high impact vs. low impact, you want to dumb things down, even making comma errors if proper use would interrupt the flow of thought for the reader you're trying to pull in.

    So if you're going to replace very, I guess I would recommend treading carefully with what you replace it with.
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  • Profile picture of the author DABK
    Me, I get annoyed every time someone's copy promises me that I'll crush it.

    I am annoyed when people use unique when they do not mean one of a kind. Often even when they mean it, because I know, for a fact, that it's not one of a kind. Often, it's not even different from anything, whatever the IT they're talking about is.

    Generally, I'm annoyed by the use of any word that's used to create excitement that's out of proportion with the subject at hand.

    I don't see how a funeral house's processes equate to the son/daughter whose parent is being buried having great peace of mind, for instance; and, no pen, personalized or not, has ever left me giddy due to its low price and high quality, also for instance)

    I'm also annoyed when the writers are using them out of laziness (lack of imagination?). By that I mean, using superlatives when I could get excited just by understanding better the product/service.

    And I HATE yourgage (term invented by Quicken Loans and such inventions). Yes, I know, it helps to name your service / product in a way that makes it stand out, but yourgage?
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  • Profile picture of the author Sean DeSilva
    Avoid the use of negatives wherever possible. This will also teach good framing practices. It's a bad idea to say your cleaning product isn't bad for the environment. Much better to announce its powerful eco-friendly, all-natural ingredients that are safe for...

    Cut down on the use of conjunctions in the middle of sentences. And, because, however.

    Speak descriptively, as if you were around a campfire painting the picture.
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    • Profile picture of the author DABK
      And that's a great pity as I can make long lists with one hand tied behind my back!

      Originally Posted by gurutard View Post

      No one is going to hire you based on the list of words you do and don't use.

      I don't get it. What's wrong with because? I utilize it well all the time. Ditto for the other conjunctions.

      Originally Posted by Sean DeSilva View Post

      Avoid the use of negatives wherever possible. This will also teach good framing practices. It's a bad idea to say your cleaning product isn't bad for the environment. Much better to announce its powerful eco-friendly, all-natural ingredients that are safe for...

      Cut down on the use of conjunctions in the middle of sentences. And, because, however.

      Speak descriptively, as if you were around a campfire painting the picture.
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  • Profile picture of the author MortonHill
    I like this list of precise words. Will avoid "very".
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  • Profile picture of the author Pat H
    Most whatever, for example, "Most business owners use this product".
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  • The word "very" has normal, every day usage and would appeal to many people for that very reason!
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