In today’s marketing reality every one of us is becoming a copywriter of some sort, being it copy for your site, news, articles, social media updates or emails to customers. A lot of us tend to forget the basics of good writing though… Thenextweb.com comes up with 5 the most common offenders – parasite words that always make a way in your copy but give it nothing and make it sound unprofessional. So what are they?
5 weak words copywriters and bloggers should avoid (and what to use instead)
Example: “The swimmer really performed admirably.” Why it’s a problem: The word ‘really’ is a crutch. It is used to convey emphasis but it fails spectacularly in this. Really doesn’t tell us anything important and is inadequate as a description. It’s an example of the writing the way we speak but it just doesn’t translate on paper or screen. There’s also the issue of considering what the word “real” means. Real is a fact, it is not imagined or supposed. It is genuine. When you take this into consideration you’ll find that using really as an intensifier often conveys more emotion than we intended. If you are going to use this word, make sure to do so sparingly as to not lessen its impact. Thankfully, this problem is easily remedied: “The swimmer really performed admirably.” Can be changed into: “The swimmer performed admirably.” Nothing is lost by cutting ‘really’ from the sentence but simplicity and function is gained. As Mark Twain said, “Use the right word, not its second cousin.”
Example: “The article said a lot of things and stuff.” Why it’s a problem: While the writer may have a perfectly clear understanding of what ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ they are referring to, the reader does not. What things and stuff? Where things and stuff? How things and stuff? Which things and stuff? See where I’m going with this? There is too much left unsaid. The author Kurt Vonnegut often gave this piece of advice, pity the reader. He didn’t mean this in a disparaging way. What he meant was that we shouldn’t make the reader do more work than necessary. When the words ‘things’ or ‘stuff’ are used, an additional burden is placed on the reader to figure out what the writer is talking about. These words are simply too vague. The writer uses them to save time but it ends up hurting both the writer and the reader in the long run. Let’s fix the example from above: “The article said a lot of things and stuff.” Instead, we can spell out what the article says: “The article discussed the principles of interactive design.” I’ve clearly picked an extreme example to illustrate this one point: specificity rules.
Find out what the other 3 words are in the original Thenextweb.com article here.