The Most Overrated Copywriting Terms… According to a Copywriter
Some copywriters take their job title too literally! Avoid these overused terms and phrases for creative copy that’s actually persuasive.
Simply put, copywriting is the act of persuading someone to take a certain action. Copywriters ask: what’s the best way to communicate this idea, product, or service? Naturally, the best ideas, products, and services on the market share certain characteristics, like innovation, authenticity, and expertise. So, copywriters are quick to proclaim how innovative, authentic, or expert the product or service they’re selling is. Usually, the copywriting content itself is fine, but tired copywriting terms and clichés elicit tired responses and *yawns*. They’re best avoided if you want your copy to stand out.
Effectiveness is the quality we’re looking for, and overused copywriting terms and phrases are never as effective as original copy. Here’s the most overused copywriting terms that you should avoid.
Cut the clichés
Considering the number of ads we’re exposed to daily (estimates range between 4,000 and 10,000), you’ve probably noticed certain words and phrases popping up again and again.
Plastered on the sides of buses and online banner ads, brands looking to stand out lay claim to world-class service, cutting-edge technology, and unbeatable prices.
We wonder how long it took the marketing team at ASDA to come up with this:
Empty superlatives won’t do the trick. Predictability is the enemy of good copy.
Similarly, fancy adjectives with multiple syllables won’t sell anything. Whether it’s a worn-out cliché or a dog-eared thesaurus: drop it. You want your writing to read naturally, so it’s easy to fall back on words and phrases that you hear often. They’re easy on the ear, but clichés are a real pain in an editor’s backside, so you should try thinking outside the box (see what we did there?).
Not-so unique selling points
Uniqueness is one of the most prized characteristics in marketing.
“What’s your USP?” (unique selling point) is a question commonly posed by investors to gauge the profitability of a company. Linguists squirm when something’s described as very/totally/absolutely unique or authentic. It’s a superlative in itself, so it can’t be qualified by an adverb. This is known as tautology, much like someone announcing that it’s “7AM in the morning”. The term ‘AM’ already indicates that it’s morning, so the words “in the morning” are redundant. Trip-ups like these are particularly damning in a creative field where you’re supposed to trade in the persuasive power of words.
In fact, the use of qualifiers to enhance the meaning of a statement in copy is overrated in general. Anything described as “very”, “absolutely”, “brilliantly”, or “perfectly” gives the impression of a copywriter who’s really very terribly uninspired – it screams of cliché copywriting terms.
Obviously, nothing exists in a vacuum. Originality doesn’t really exist. As Mark Twain once said: “the actual and valuable material of all human utterances is plagiarism.”
But don’t count that as an invitation to recycle the successful copy of the past.
You need to look beyond the surface elements of what is popular now and consider how your product/service will change your audience’s life. That’s what makes timeless copy. You can communicate unique ideas, products, and services without long product specification lists and tired refrains.
Toothpaste ads claiming to be “dentist-approved” are everywhere, so the fact that the product’s trusted by professionals doesn’t help to distinguish the item.
We can’t imagine a better waste of Times Square, New York. Prime advertising space, predictable messaging.
Get off the bandwagon. If the idea behind the product is actually unique, it’ll speak for itself. This rule’s a cliché in itself, but show, don’t tell.
Apple’s life-changing lessons in marketing
Let’s take a look at an example from the master marketers at Apple.
In 2001, Apple launched the first iPod and a marketing campaign with the tagline: ‘1,000 songs in your pocket’. Apple made it possible to store a whole music library on a device the size of a deck of cards. With a 1.8inch 5GB hard drive, portability was its unique selling point; the device’s closest competitor had a 2.5inch hard drive.
The point is, Apple addresses how this product is going to change your daily life. You can’t question the longevity of a brand like Apple, they’ve been going strong for years on a singular ethos of simplicity and functionality. Their iPod marketing campaign demonstrated those traits perfectly. A device might have a 24-inch commercial-grade LED screen or a lightweight nano carbon frame, but how does it make my life better?
Similarly, you can’t underestimate the intelligence of your audience. False promises damage the brand.
Don’t deceive your audience
We’ve all got a friend who starts every anecdote by declaring “it was the funniest thing ever…” This is a sure-fire way of losing your audience’s trust. Big statements are great if you can deliver on them, but most of the time you’re better off letting your audience judge the merits of your story.
The following fall under the category of big statement/low reward:
- Leading/cutting edge.
- “Guaranteed to…”
- “You won’t believe the results.”
- Taking [x industry] by storm!
- World-class/ world-famous/ internationally-renowned.
Says who? Why? Presumably you’re not operating a monopoly, otherwise you needn’t remind the customer of your stature, so what exactly makes your world-class service better than your competitors’ world-class service? Be specific!
As a copywriter, it’s your job to retain the reader’s attention right up until the last sentence. Your call-to-action (CTA) is the business end of copy where you directly address the reader. So, you’ve got this far but you’re losing momentum, and you fall back on a familiar refrain:
- “Sign up today!”
- “Buy now.”
- “Read more.”
The call-to-action is an invitation to take a desired action. Language that’s overtly commanding robs the reader of any sense that they’re thinking independently. Think carefully about an original CTA, or risk falling at the final hurdle.
You’re looking to spice up your copy and sprinkle in a few descriptive words. The problem with adjectives is that they’re often overused in certain contexts. For example, the baker’s bread is fresh, and the latest smartphone features innovative design technology. There’s nothing wrong with these descriptions, but we’ve come to expect them in advertising. Avoid these overused copywriting terms if you want to turn heads.
Once the suit tailor’s vocabulary on Savile Row, “bespoke” (custom-made for the individual) has slowly lost its original meaning (and effectiveness). In recent years, it’s become generally applicable to any product or service. The same goes for “artisan”. Both adjectives imply standout quality, but when your competitive field is made up entirely of companies promising “artisan” products and “bespoke” services, you’re going to have to find another way to stand out.
Don’t underestimate your audience, they’ll know when they actually see a revolutionary product, so focus on showcasing the idea behind the product and how it’s going to change lives.
Now it’s your turn…
Confidence, in both your product and your writing, is the key to persuasive but honest copy. There’s a reason why creativity is the second-most valued skill in the world. In the UK, under 10% of digital advertising gets looked at for more than a second. The age of the attention economy is here, and connecting with consumers is your main concern. Standing out from the crowd isn’t easy, but avoiding these overused terms and phrases is a good starting point.
At Linguakey, we specialise in creative content solutions for tech brands. Contact us to unlock your potential.