9 words to avoid when writing content

9 words to avoid when writing content

Language is a powerful thing. The right words awaken your audience’s imagination and connect with them on a personal level. As an inbound marketer, you write content to do just this. Your content is meant to appeal to your brand’s potential customers, to educate and delight them, which means you need to steer clear of words that will have the opposite effect. There are certain words that are so overused they have lost all impact. And then there are words that just make people cringe. Reflect on this list of words to avoid with each piece of content you write.

#9 Unbelievable

Let’s all agree that a word meaning ‘impossible to believe’ isn’t going to build brand trust. Using ‘unbelievable’ to describe your company’s product or service can in turn create confusion and doubt. So the weight-loss results of your brand’s new and improved diet pills are unbelievable? That’s right. No one believes them. On the other hand, we understand that today ‘unbelievable’ is generally used as a positive descriptor, something is so good, bad, etc. that it is difficult to believe, but used in this sense, it’s too over the top to engage any high-value customers.

#8 Unique

“Always remember you’re unique, just like everyone else.” This quote reminds us why you should avoid the word ‘unique’ when writing content. A word that once meant ‘unlike anything else’ is now so commonplace its definition has been diluted to something more like ‘different, to some degree, from the norm’.

#7 Literally

Throw ‘honestly’, ‘absolutely’ and ‘actually’ in there, as well. When it comes to words that make people’s eyes glaze over while reading content, superfluous adverbs are key culprits. They can create a sense of exaggeration in your writing. Say you promote your brand’s toothpaste as literally the best for whitening teeth? That’s the same claim as every brand out there. How can customers trust you? Adverbs can also suggest you’re afraid of not getting your point across. By boasting that customers can literally taste the farm in your homegrown produce, you’re trying to reinforce just how local your veggies are. We get it. But think about the real meaning of that slogan. Does anyone want to taste the farm in ‘a literal or strict sense’? We don’t know many people keen on grass and manure flavours in their vegetable medley. You see, literally can honestly get absolutely tricky, so we think it’s better to avoid those adverbs.

Rob Lowe’s character on Parks and Recreation, Chris Traeger, misusing ‘literally’

#6 Groundbreaking

Unless you’re launching a product that will drastically change the lives of mankind—think the wheel, the light bulb, the Internet—you should refrain from using this word.

#5 Millennial

Being stereotyped in general is off-putting, and the majority of consumers lumped together under the term ‘millennial’ will not self-identify as such. Marketers have got to stop reaching out to a ‘millennial’ audience because the once all-encompassing descriptor no longer resonates with anyone. Think of all the people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. They all had different upbringings and influences. They have various passions and needs. And they will be drawn to different content and campaigns. As Hootsuite’s post on the subject states, there are countless competing views within that age bracket as to what is popular and what isn’t, so don’t waste your time targeting such a broad category.

#4 Check this out!

When you want to draw attention to something, this may seem like the perfect line, but it’s become banal, unable to entice people to proceed in checking it out. You can instead ask your audience for feedback on a social media post, single out an important influencer in your piece of content so he or she has no choice but to respond, or release breaking news that people will be actively seeking of their own accord. Of course, if your content provides sufficient value to customers, they won’t need any other incentive to read through it till the end.

#3 Awesome

According to Jill Shargaa, when you use the word awesome to describe the most mundane of things, you’re taking away the very power of the word. Your five tips on engaging customers through Snapchat are probably useful, but not awesome. A new Nutty OREO Ice Cream Bars recipe might be delicious, but not awesome. No line at airport security is lucky, but not awesome. Abuse of the word has got to stop. The same thing has happened to ‘epic’ and ‘interesting’, so use caution when describing your content.

Jill Shargaa’s complete TED talk: Please, please, people. Let’s put the ‘awe’ back in ‘awesome’

#2 Self

Yes, selfies are popular among social media users, and we are not against the act of taking a selfie, but please think of another way to ask customers to interact with your brand. If your goal is to have customers share photos dressed head to toe in your ready-to-wear fashion or drinking your ice tea brand on their favourite beach, rather than asking them to post a selfie, try ‘show us our products in action’ or ‘next time you use (product), capture the moment and share it with us’.

#1 Moist

Unsure how much people hate the word ‘moist’? Consider this. BuzzFeed’s article titled ‘Why Moist is the Worst Word Ever has received over four million views. There’s a Facebook group called ‘I HATE the word MOIST! with over 3,000 members. HuffPost Taste cooked up a list of alternative words to use when writing about cake. And finally, according to Urban Dictionary, “Moist is the perfect word to make others uncomfortable.” I think we’ve made our point.

words to avoid - moist

One of Jimmy Fallon’s most memorable Thank You Notes

One of the greatest abilities we have as humans is to communicate through words. Don’t squander your potential. Remember these words to avoid when writing content.


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