The 7 deadly word sins

7 words you won’t find on Valuable Content websites, and which shouldn’t be on yours.

We write lead generating websites for businesses, so we get through a lot of words – thousands of the things. There are some we try not to use any more – either because they’re overused, or because they’re not clear, or because we just don’t like them.

1.  Solutions.

Offering solutions to a client’s problem is a hackneyed way of saying you can help. Next time you’re sitting in a traffic jam count the number of vans with ‘solutions’ written on them.  Dry rot solutions, office furniture solutions, decorating solutions. Be more specific about exactly how what you do will improve your client’s situation.

2.  Facilitate.

Don’t use it if you mean ‘set up,’ or ‘organise.’ It’s a bit of a prissy word, sounds like you’re trying to make something simple sound more important.

3.  Orientated as a suffix, like results-orientated, or worse, solutions-orientated.

Of course you work towards resolving the client’s problem. Just bunging ‘orientated’ on the end of a word doesn’t help show your method or describe your USP. Say how you do it, specifically.

4.  Focused as a suffix.

Or worse, focussed. See above. Results-focused, solutions-focused, we don’t like it.

5.  Dynamic.

Maybe we’re getting old, but we don’t really like dynamic agencies. For a start it’s a bit of a cliche, a lazy way of saying you’re not lazy. Plus, if you say you’re dynamic we imagine you wearing patterned socks and running round screaming into your Blackberry like an Apprentice wannabe. We’d rather see examples of original thought and genuinely helpful content.

6  Passionate.

Being passionate about customer service makes you look a bit silly. No one believes it, so don’t say it. Caring is good, so is attention to detail, but passion? Save it for your lovers.

7.  Synergy. Paradigm. Proactive.

Just stop it.

That’s our hit list of business gobbledygook. What’s on yours? Anything you’d like to add?

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  1. Bill Maryon

    Yeh, good points, I’d go along with that lot.
    I also dislike the way ‘instore’ seems to have become a word. Retailers seem to have adopted it wholesale (ha ha)
    And my all time unfavourite – ‘impact on’ – for affect. Eg “The rain will impact on my vegetables growth rate”
    (Should there have been an apostrophe in there?)

  2. Nick

    The word “Expert” is probably top of my list. Seems like everybody is an expert on something these days! Nobody talks in plain English any more.

    Thanks for posting this, I enjoyed reading it.

  3. Kevin

    Absolutely agree. But how about the phrase “Welcome to my/our/xyz company’s website” and, even worse IMHO, “Welcome to our new website”. How long is a website new for? And how many leaflets you get through the door say “Welcome to our leaflet”?

    Anyway, welcome to my response ;-).


  4. Liz Davidson

    Go easy on ‘unique’. A word so over-used in sales blurb that nobody even flinches.

    If you or your product are truly unique, you’ve got to do more than say so, you’ve got to show how.

    But first, you must question whether your ‘uniqueness’ even matters to your client. Will the ‘uniqueness’ of your service or product really improve their experience? If not, then leave it out and concentrate on effectiveness, quality, functionality and value.

    Thanks for the post! Pithy and fun.

  5. Louise Barnes-Johnston

    Good collection Sharon! The term ‘One Stop Shop’ always makes me cringe, and I can’t help wondering how the company using it can possibly be good (let alone great) at everything. I’d much rather seek out a specialist.


  6. Sharon Tanton

    Thanks for commenting everyone, this was a fun one to write!

    Certainly agree that ‘one stop shop’ ‘unique’ and spurious ‘welcome’s should be on the hit list.

    ‘Expert’ is heading that way too, Nick, unless you can really prove it. In which case show it, don’t say it!


  7. Nick Roberts

    Yes, all are overused to the point of being meaningless.

    BUT I’d hazard a guess that we all have used one or more in the past… haven’t we? (I need to check our website out quick!)

    How about adding scenario, inovative and turnkey?

  8. Dick Willis

    I detest the word ‘delight’, as in ‘we aim to delight our customers’. I can just see the customers prancing around in joy… Actually, no I can’t. The word makes me want to cringe.

  9. Jason Mlicki

    When I graduated college in the 90’s I interviewed with Deloitte. During their campus visit all they could talk about was how “dynamic” the company was. The recruiters must have used the word 20 times. So, I pressed them a bit in my interview. “What do you actually mean by dynamic?” Nobody could answer. I didn’t get the job. I guess I was too “static.”

  10. Sharon Tanton

    Good story! Words like ‘dynamic’ get detached from their meaning and slapped into branding documents but no one can even knows what they’re supposed to signify. People spray them about liberally, and then they come to embody the reverse. E.g. a dynamic person would be forward thinking, fast and powerful enough to come up with an answer. A dull one wouldn’t know what dynamic means. BTW ‘branding’ is another one of Sonja’s pet hates. Our list is getting longer! Thanks for commenting.

  11. Mark G

    I have disliked the word “functionality” in the computer field for 30 years. It is used to mean “capabilities” or “features” or “functions” but it is a marketing word with extra syllables to make it sound more important.

  12. Sonja Jefferson

    Nice on Mark. Now you point it out that word is pretty horrid. Another scrubbed from the list!

  13. Kevin

    How about ‘end to end’ …. as in “we deliver end to end solutions” … where are these ends?



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