Discussion Article: Words and phrases to avoid

Elsewhere on this website, we have argued for understanding of the characteristics of each and every target market segment. The use of appropriate language is a critical element of effective communication. Words and phrases that will resonate positively with one particular target group may be a total turnoff with others, or at best a signal that the message is not for them.

It is little different to being subjected to music broadcast inside a shop or while you are on-hold. At best, it will sooth or even stimulate. At worst, it will infuriate to the point of you leaving.

There are many articles and Blogs on the Internet written by “professionals.” It will be a matter of judgement as to which should be taken seriously.

Here are our opinions about words and phrases - both good and not-so-good:

“At the end of the day” Why not “eventually” or “ultimately”?

“Awesome.” If the target audience is teenagers (actual or otherwise) this word may inspire. For many educated (read literate) adults, the word is frequently detested.

“Basically” implies that it is unlikely the recipient is smart enough to handle anything more complex.

 “Fairly unique” Is something unique or not?

"Synergy" is an excellent scientific term but as commonly used, it is merely an attempt to sound educated.

“Technology” A term frequently and inappropriately used to describe mundane technical or other design attributes.

“Paradigm shift.” Oh really?  Are we discussing Newtonian physics, Darwin, Einstein or just another attempt to appear educated?

“It is the way we do it here” is equivalent to the “NIH” syndrome of “not invented here” meaning our minds are closed to anything new, or from outside.

“Saves money” sounds like a positive benefit, but what if the overriding need is convenience, or speed of operation and price is not a critical consideration?

“Let’s touch base” Does this mean “contact us” or an invitation of some kind?

“Shop by brand” may be considered some kind of benefit if the reader actually has some knowledge of the relative advantages of brands on offer. If this is the invitation to look further, it may appeal only to those with pre-conceived brand preferences – hardly a way to engage with a broader target audience.

“Shop by category” has the same problem as above. Consider the selection of garden plants online. On a professional wholesale site, this may be appropriate, but if the target audience is the general public the visitor may likely want to start any selection by defining region, climate, soil type before choosing any particular plant family. This does not mean belittling the visitor, merely offering more than one way to “drill down” through a selection process. (A separate article on “drilling down” through information-levels will be available soon).

“Your  Complete  Source for Equipment, Service & Supplies” Is this statement really a benefit likely to engage with buyers? “Come to us for the widest range of equipment and prompt, efficient service” might be far more effective.

“A leader in the supply of XXX. .” Why not “We confidently offer more value to our customers than ever before” From an extensive product range to our focus on customer service from a top-shelf team, here are some reasons to choose us.

“You have arrived at . . . we have the best range of . . .” These are neither benefits NOR reasons to visit. Enough said!

“Buy one, get one free” must obviously work in some circumstances, or it would not be used so commonly as a sales ploy, but it is probably not a benefit at all. It may even prompt the viewer to question whether the asking price is greatly over-inflated.

That is our whinge session for now. Please look through the copy we write for our clients and if you find us using any of the above examples, please do tell us and we will exchange our 40+ years of practical experience for a course in marketing communications!

This article has been produced by the lead-writer at Please contact us for a free initial discussion about your particular category and communication objectives.

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