If You Have to Say You’re Innovative, You’re Really Not

Words to Avoid In Business Writing

Last week during our inbound marketing classes, we had the pleasure of listening to a presentation by David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR. One of the topics he touched on was gobbledygook. Gobbledygook is all of the over-used cliché filler words that companies use in their marketing materials.

Gobbledygook has a tendency to create never-ending sales pitches that have little or no meaning to customers. How many of you have seen something like this?

Bob Inc. is an industry-leading biochemical engineering corporation that provides proactive solutions through the integration of innovative alpha-wave circuitry into the cerebral cortex of consenting salient life forms. Bob Inc. focuses on creating lasting partnerships and business value through amalgamating cost-centers across disparate departments into a single functional business unit. 

Really? How about, “We make affordable cyborgs!” 

The fact is, there are many words that are so over-used, they have completely lost their effectiveness. How many times do you hear words like “industry-leading”, “innovative”, “proactive”, “solutions”, and “value”? Too many.

Reflecting upon this, I realized that we get into the habit of using trendy crutch-words at a fairly young age. I regret to say that ‘not!’, ‘as if!’, and my all-time favorite, ‘redonkulous!’, were all staples in vocabulary at one point. Every person and social sector tends to have phrases that they love to use, and the business world is no different.

So, What Can I Do to Improve My Writing?

I’m not saying that you should completely ban the word “innovation” from your vocabulary. But you should really think about why you’re using it and if it really adds any value to what you’re saying. After all, if a company is truly innovative, it shows without saying. No amount of creative wording will add excitement to a boring company.

When it comes to business writing, simplicity is the best policy. Let go of your corporate ego and write how your customers talk. Maybe try some on-target humor or colloquialism in your speech. A well-placed bit of humor will make you more memorable than any amount of “innovative” wording… provided that it’s on-target.

That brings me to my next point. Before you do any of this, make sure you know your customers really well. If you’re puzzled about what to say, reach out to your customers and find out what you’re doing—or not doing—that sets you apart. Pay close attention to what they’re saying and the words they use. From this you can get a much better idea of how customers see you and how you can connect with them in your writing.

And last but not least, if you simply hate writing, then save yourself the trouble. Hire a professional to help you with it. It’ll save you time and a ton of stress, and likely improve your marketing by a factor of ten-fold.