How many job seekers do you think use the expression “hardworking” on their résumés?
We’d venture to say that it’s a pretty high percentage, which is part of the reason why we advise against it: Everyone claims to be hardworking, so that term doesn’t really help you to stand out from the pack.
Instead, we recommend invoking specific incidents and achievements that show you to be hardworking. Concrete, measurable accomplishments are much more alluring to an employer than vague, meaningless buzzwords.
We use this illustration because a similar concept is in play with your company’s marketing materials. A business website, Facebook bio, brochure, press release—whatever the marketing collateral in question—your goal should always be to convey some specific, measurable benefit you can offer to customers and clients.
Why is it, then, that so many companies use vague and meaningless buzzwords—the business equivalents of “hardworking” or “team player” on a resume—to describe what they do?
To help you ensure that your business marketing copy is free and clear of useless words and clichés, we’ll offer you the following service: Seven of the top words to strike from your business website and marketing materials today.
My banned words list:
Best. Do you think your business is the best of its kind? Of course you do: You’re the business owner. For all we know, you’re absolutely right. The thing is, you can’t prove it—and because all your competitors are saying the same thing, it’s best to focus on showing you’re the best instead of just telling it.
Most. This one is in the same category. You might be the most reliable, the most transparent, the most affordable, or what have you—but unless you can back it up with specifics, it’s not exactly effective, compelling, or unique marketing copy.
Quality. Here’s a word that has certain connotations within the manufacturing sector—and certainly, emphasizing the quality of your product makes sense. It’s better to state which standards or compliance guidelines you hold your products to, though, instead of just saying that you care about quality.
Fresh. This one is mostly applicable to restaurants. Frankly, we hope it doesn’t have to be said that you’re working with fresh, rather than stale or moldy, ingredients. If you really want to convey freshness, give some numbers: Say that your produce is picked every morning, or that you brew your coffee every half hour.
Excellence. What does this even mean? That you try to do a good job in your work? Again, we would hope that this goes without saying.
Expertise. Don’t tell us you’re an authority. Prove it. Show your expertise in action.
110 percent. Honestly: No. You won’t give 110 percent. It’s mathematically impossible—and it’s simply a dreadful cliché.
To our readers, we ask: What words should be stricken from the marketing vocabulary?
A version of this post first appeared on GrammarChic.