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The most overused phrases in copywriting—and how to get rid of ’em

This week, I ordered a client to rip a sentence from their homepage.

There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the sentence. It was grammatically correct. It contributed to the overall story of the webpage.

So why did I tell them to remove it? It didn’t MEAN anything. It contained not one, but two of the most overused phrases in copy jargon. It was a filler phrase that I’ve seen on hundreds of websites before—and I roll my eyes at every one of them.

With web copy, you have a several hundred words to communicate your service and why it’s better than your competitors’. Therefore, you cannot waste one of those precious words on one that doesn’t mean sh*t.

In my professional opinion, these are the most overused phrases in copywriting. If your website or collateral contains any of these, rip ‘em out!

Whether

Whether you’re in need of a home-away-from-home or a neighborhood spot, stop by our coffee shop! Whether you need a getaway car or your safe model for your family, stop by our dealership! Whether you want a website overhaul or newsletter launch, call Kara McCartney!

A couple problems here—the first one being it’s painfully overused. Rarely can I get through a company’s entire website and collateral library without at least one, if not several, whether sentences.

Solution

Typically, when a business owner uses whether in their web copy, they’re struggling to narrow down their service listing (and benefits) to target one, core audience. Remedy this by defining your service as acutely and accurately as you can.

For example, if you’re a gym, you may be tempted to say, “Whether you’re looking to get back on the wagon or find your next workout addiction…” This sentence implies you’re targeting two audiences: Those who haven’t worked out in six months, and those who, in all likelihood, have the body of a Greek god. PICK ONE. Pick your primary audience, and tailor your copy to them. You do not need to alienate the other group; you simply need to remember which group makes up the majority of your sales. Speak to them. “For those who push past their limits,” is way more enticing to a gym rat then hearing your gym is “for everyone.”

Inflection point

The financial industry is at an inflection point. Your company is at an inflection point. The marketing campaign is at an inflection point.

I’m sorry, is EVERYONE in EVERY industry at an inflection point? Has this inflection point lasted for several years? If you wrote the phrase inflection point on your website two years go, wouldn’t we be passed the “point” by now?

Solution

To claim your clients/prospects are at an inflection point is to say they have an opportunity, and are not capitalizing on it. TELL THEM WHAT THAT OPPORTUNITY IS. That is your job.

If they are to trust you and your service, you need to make them stop and think, “How did we miss that?” If they are truly at an inflection point, tell them which way to go. If you’re a financial advisor speaking to a couple at their “inflection point” on saving for retirement, say, “It’s time to decide between IRA and a Roth IRA.” Simple, right?

A new lens

Look at your company through a new lens. A new lens strategy to financial planning. A new-lens approach to data recovery.  

What is this lens you speak of? Is it really new? How is this lens different from the lens your clients currently use?

Solution

Answer the above questions. Seriously. Write exactly how your viewpoint is different from yours readers’. Don’t bother introducing your viewpoint as a new lens. It’s a filler phrase that, as we already diagnosed, means absolutely nothing. Plus, they’ve probably heard it from twenty-five other consultants already—not exactly helping your competitive advantage.

My friend Sophie—a business operations consultant—does this beautifully. To a fast-casual restaurant owner, she says, “You are not a grab-n-go lunch spot. You are a member of the hospitality industry—your employees should be trained on how to create a welcoming experience for clients.”

Doesn’t that have a little more meat to it than “a new lens”?

Disrupt

How we plan to disrupt the healthcare industry. How our software will disrupt the way you do banking. How this startup is disrupting a $200 billion industry.

Just like whether, disrupt is a word to which my clients are inexplicably attached. And like every other phrase preluding this one, it doesn’t mean squat.

Solution

What do you MEAN when you say you’re a disruptive force? What about you, your business, or your service is disruptive? SAY THAT. Your copy will resonate and capture readers by stating, “Our drag-and-drop templates allow you to build and manage your own websites without code,” far more than, “We disrupt the way you build websites.”

Now, whether your company is at an inflection point or you’re just starting out, doesn’t this blog post disrupt your strategy, making you see copywriting through a new lens?

 

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