10 words and phrases to ban from your writing

Do you want your copy to sing? Then stop using these words and phrases and come up with more meaningful ways to communicate.

Consider yourself banned from using these in your writing:

1. Groundbreaking/ground breaking. To imply something is groundbreaking means that it is a first of something (e.g., Pasteur’s groundbreaking work in biology). Be honest with yourself—is your product really groundbreaking?

2. Synergy. A synergy occurs when two or more parties combined are greater than the sum of its parts. This word was cool … about seven years ago. Find a new word.

3. Thinking outside of the box. This is a cliché that refuses to die in the business world. Pull the plug.

4. For all intents and purposes. This statement means in a practical sense. It’s meaningless and wastes space. Only use words/phrases that add value to your message.

5. Literally. Literally means word for word, or without exaggeration. Too often, people use it incorrectly (e.g., “My speech literally brought the house down…”). Use this word sparingly, and only when you really, really mean something.

6. Leverage. We often use leverage in lieu of “use” or “benefit from” (e.g., “We leveraged the skill set of the sales team to bring in a considerable profit.”). That’s not what leverage actually means. Use it properly, or not at all.

7. Real-time. Real-time was a cool concept about a decade ago, when the idea of anything instantaneous was mind-blowing. But in today’s connected world, real-time doesn’t hold the same power.

8. Nice. Nice is as blah as adjectives get. Don’t use it in your writing. Ever.

9. Free information. Since when did information cost anything?

10. Best-of-breed. Do you host doggy pageants? Run a puppy mill? Are you talking about Seabiscuit? No? Then abandon all use of best-of-breed.
Let’s find new and more meaningful ways to communicate our thoughts. And bring back impact to our writing.

What words and phrases do you love to hate? What could we do away with entirely?


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