The Cringiest & Most Overused Words in Marketing
Marketing copy is often written hastily (or by a content farm) to meet a tight deadline. Other times, it’s written bland to match what’s already approved by legal. Both situations lead to boring copy that doesn’t conquer campaign goals. If you want your words to work, make them fresh and meaningful.
Here are some marketing clichés to throw in the dumpster.
Disclaimer (because we’re cowards): This post doesn’t refer to any specific entity’s content, especially not yours. And when we say “you,” we don’t mean you – unless you like it? Finally, all brands are different: Some of these words may totally work in someone’s marketing material.
Marketing Words to Avoid
This section focuses on single words. If it’s phrasal platitudes you’re interested in, skip ahead.
Agile. This is a mildly creepy, nonspecific way to say your business is ready for anything. But hey, it’s not as bad as calling your team “lithe” or “supple.”
Amazing. Every time this word is used, a copywriter somewhere sheds a tear. There are so many other adjectives that aren’t used every millisecond.
Best-of-breed, best-in-class. Are you (or is your product/service) a prize-winning rabbit? If not, consider a cooler word. Better yet, show that you’re the best – e.g., with data and social proof – instead of saying it.
Cutting-edge. Sadly, this word is the least cutting-edge, due to overuse. It may be wise to avoid this term and tell a story instead.
Deliver. A spooky way of saying “provide” or “create.” If you want to sound approachable and human (not like a conveyor belt), stop delivering the things.
Enable. This one is useful sometimes – but be careful. It often appears in wordy sentences. You can likely just remove it and use more direct language.
Expertise. Okay, fine: many fruitful brands say “expertise” all the time. But sometimes the word is a filler in a vague sentence about people. There may be a more specific way to make the point.
Facilitate. Like “enable” but more formal, this word typically appears in a sentence that should be 3 to 4 words shorter. But it might work just fine sometimes if the formality suits your brand voice.
FYI. Anything that people read is “for their information.” So, when you use this acronym on a fragment of your content, it may imply that the rest is not good information.
Generate. This is like “deliver” but spookier. If you want to use it to talk about people, think again. If you’re talking about technology or anything non-sentient, it’s probably fine.
Good/great. While it’s inevitable that this word will end up in some of your marketing copy, it pays to consider more colorful adjectives!
Guru. A guru is a religious leader, and many are offended by the wide misuse of the word. Not only is calling yourself a guru in marketing material offensive, but it sounds arrogant. Is that aligned with your brand?
Hacking. (especially “growth hacking”) Just don’t.
Holistic. Every business wants to differentiate by providing the most well-rounded customer experience. But if you use this word, tread carefully. “Holistic experience” and “holistic approach” are clichés.
Illuminate. It happens like this: You don’t want to say “show”a bunch of times, so you say “illuminate.” But this term is probably drawing attention to the verb, when the noun is really what you want readers to focus on.
Immersive. This term is frequently used in marketing copy to highlight an experiential or in-depth offering. But what does it mean? If you say the word, don’t forget to also describe the “immersion.”
Impactful. A pointless word invented by exhausted creatives. Is it a good impact or a bad impact? What change are we describing? Back to the drawing board …
Integral. So, your product is “integral to” or “vital to”the thing your audience desires? Okay, that’s a bit flowery. Try making the sentence more active. Like, “The [product] does [the thing your audience desires].”
Leverage. Definitions include “exploit” and “provide mechanical advantage.” If you are leveraging your team’s experience, it sounds like you’re taking advantage of them! Pick a word without negative connotation.
Ninja. Shockingly few people are ninjas, okay?
Over [#]. As in, “over 10 days of experience.” This is colloquial but not grammatically correct. Try using “more than” instead, if possible.
Per and Via. Replace with “according to,” “through,” or “with.” In pretty much in any situation, it’ll be clearer and more conversational that way.
Really, very. You don’t need these words in marketing copy. Just put them in your pocket, and use them when you’re talking out loud. (Very good = marvelous. Really big = gigantic. You get it.)
Rock star. Just like ninjas, rock stars are few and far between. A sad reality. But businesses do better when they are real with their audience.
Seamless. “It’s a seamless process.” “We seamlessly provide services.” Both are clichés and sort of vague.
State-of-the-art. Say it if you want to, you beautiful pioneer, you! Just don’t forget to give examples of your state-of-the-artness.
Synergy. You probably know plenty of people with a furious disdain for this word, so don’t you think it’ll turn off some of your audience too?
Thing, stuff. Bland, vague and lazy. Be specific.
Turnkey. Gobble gobble.
Unique. It is not unique. But if you must use the word, explain yourself thoroughly.
Unveil. Brides, religious people, vampires and masked villains may be unveiled. Sometimes unveiling someone is a horrible offense! The subtle undertones of “unveil” make it dicey to use in a business context.
Utilize. Is “use” not okay? Don’t we want people to skim past that verb and focus on the sentence’s subject instead? If so, then “use” is okay.
Every word matters in marketing copy, just like in poetry. Now, let’s move on to some garbage phrases.
Want help with crafting marketing copy? Reach out to us at Oneupweb.
Marketing Phrases to Avoid
Actionable insights (or glean insights). We are hypocrites because this phrase appears at least once on our website. But the phrase is horribly prevalent in any discussion of data or business intelligence.
Above and beyond. Unless you are an astronaut or a high jumper, “going above and beyond” doesn’t mean a lot. Give relatable examples instead.
Breeds creativity (or breeds anything). The perfect way to make people feel violated.
Click here. If you want to give ’90s Internet vibes, fine. Put it in ALL CAPS for all we care. But the most successful calls-to-action of modern day are not this.
Customer-focused (or customer-centric) approach. Everyone focuses on their customers (or says they do). Instead of just saying it, give prospects an idea of what their experience with you will be like.
Dedicated to providing (and other verbs). Cringey combo: “We are dedicated to providing you with actionable insights on how to breed creativity in your organization.” Better version: “We will help you inspire creativity in your organization.” Best version: Test copy variations to find out!
For all your needs. Your products/services are not for your customers’ needs. They’re for your customer, and they meet/fulfill that person’s needs. Write directly to the person.
Hit the ground running. This is a wordy way to say “start.” Since the action you’re starting is probably the important part of the sentence, why add so many run-of-the-mill words?
Move the needle. What needle are we moving – the cliché gauge?
Not to mention. (i.e., followed by mentioning the thing) Think about it. It’s just dishonest.
Now more than ever. This phrase depends on a condition that makes something temporarily important. If you don’t specify what that condition is, it’s confusing. And eventually, that condition will evolve or dissolve. This will inevitably date your content.
Stand out. (e.g., from the crowd) There are many alternative ways to say this. What about “be known as the best”? Or “humiliate your enemies” …
Take it to the next level. Unless there are actual, official levels being discussed, this phrase is too vague/tired.
The ultimate guide/solution. These days, it appears that every new guide or solution created is the ultimate one. Even if that’s true, the repetition of that adjective makes it all seem lackluster.
We have you covered. The age-old platitude: “When it comes to [things], we have you covered.”Sometimes paired with incorrect grammar (“we’ve got”) for a little extra cheese.
What matters most. Typically seen as: “We do [things] so you can focus on what matters most.”It’s a sweet sentiment but not specific. Do you know what matters to your audience? Speak directly about that.
Overused Style & Grammar Choices
Sometimes it’s the way you put words together that creates the cliché or an annoyance – not the words themselves. So let’s talk sentence structure and style.
It’s easy to overlook these things when creating a first draft. No worries – we’re humans. Watch out for them during QA and copyediting processes.
- The multi-period phrase. You know the one: “Innovative. Turnkey. Product.” If the words between those periods are not overused, you might get away with this. Just don’t pretend it’s ultra-unique.
- The abuse of first-person plural. (i.e., we/our) If you talk about your business in the first-person plural, as most do in their marketing copy, limit the rapid-fire use of “we” or “our.” It begins to sound egocentric.
- Unvaried sentence structure. Fluctuate between simple, complex and compound sentences. When there are multiple complex sentences (dependent + independent clause) near each other, vary which type of clause comes first. If many sentences start with dependent clauses, for example, the paragraph reads awkwardly.
Finally, consider steering clear of these grammatical errors, which are often used in marketing copy on purpose. For cuteness? For fanciness? It’s a mystery.
- “We pride ourselves in/on …” Better ways to say this are, “We are proud of” or “We are proud to.”
- “As to whether,” “as to whom,” and “as to why.” Wordy, confusing, archaic, haughty.
- “We’ve got.” Some brands have a casual voice and tone, so this phrase could work. But if it’s the only grammar rule you’re bending, it might stick out as an error.
- “Reasons why.” You can always drop the “why.” It’s redundant. Yay for reducing character count!
Always Make Good Copy!
You might be thinking: Whoever wrote this article is way too picky! While you might be kind of right, you can’t argue with marketing performance data.