Common Copywriting Peeves and How to Avoid Them – Literally

Monday, April 24, 2017


Here’s a brief guide to the words that make a copywriter cringe and how to avoid using them. 

Let’s start with the mostly superfluous word in the title of this blog -“literally”. It demonstrates the very problem with using more words than necessary to get a message across. If you’re saying exactly what you need to say, then the word “literally” has no place in a sentence. That is, unless you are using a phrase that is commonly known as a metaphor in a literal sense. See the difference between these two uses of this word: 

“I was literally laughing my head off.”
- Superfluous and impossible! 

“He couldn’t swim but he literally jumped in the deep end.”
Useful 

Hence

This word is used very little in everyday conversation and yet it appears regularly in online writing. I think what irks me about this word is that it feels unnatural to write something that I am unlikely to say out loud. The lesson here is to write like you speak, particularly when you are writing blogs or other pieces that will be read by the public. You don’t want to come off as pompous or condescending. 

Holistic

I love the meaning of this word, but its overuse, particularly in marketing has driven me away from using it myself. Holistic solutions, holistic strategies – to me, this overused word devalues the noun it precedes and doesn’t add value to the message. Sure, your business may look at your clients’ problems “holistically”, but is this word descriptive enough to have you stand out from the crowd in your market? Think about how your business helps your clients and get specific. 

See the difference here: 

“We take a holistic approach to writing digital content.”
- doesn’t say a lot about what we do. 

“We write engaging and relevant digital content to drive conversations with your target audience.”
-far more articulate. 

Peruse

My 20-year disdain for this word makes me cringe every time I read it. Used more in the 1990s in sales letters and emails when we were trying to sound clever and sophisticated, I’m yet to hear someone say this word in regular conversation without sounding a tad self-important. “I attach our quotation for your perusal” used to be a commonplace. The words “review”, “information” or “consideration” are much better substitutes. 

Regardless of your audience, keep the language simple and concise when writing to them. And if you have trouble keeping your Hences and Holistics under control, get in touch and we’ll handle it for you. 

Email hello@thewritinggroup.com.au or call 1300 073 078.