Archive for the ‘Words that sell’ Category

Nowhere Else in Any Universe

April 3, 2007

IT’S LAME: “Unparalleled”

Yes, it’s of epic proportion. It’s of cosmic consequence. It’s unparalleled.

It seems that nearly every company and every product is unparalleled these days. How is this possible? Does anyone believe it, or does using this adjective without including substantiation merely serve to build skepticism of all the words and claims that follow it.

62% of the business editors Smith-Winchester surveyed recently deemed “unparalleled” to be overused in business publicity. The majority also indicated that “Unsurpassed” was also overused. Our suggestion: back up the claim…and use only it if you can. By the way, “unparalleled” isn’t a synonym for “unique.”

IT’S GAME: “Rich Medium”

The multiple meaning of the word “medium” can serve you well. Use it creatively to refer to an industrial controls environment, or a business environment resulting from a trend….a software capability or communications mode… a culture for growing things, like ideas (literally or figuratively). Mix in a dash of prognostication, on occasion.

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Podcasts from Grammer Girl may actually prove that someone can make grammar tips popular. She’s getting national press. And it’s about time that someone helped us all get tuned into the rules. Check out her blog Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

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This Paperclip is a Solution

March 6, 2007

paperclip is a solution

IT’S LAME: “Solutions”

In our recent survey of business editors, 68% rated the word “solutions” as overused in press releases and other business marketing communications. This is not to conclude that the word is meaningless. Problem-solving is an expected part of the sales process, and in many cases, it’s a critical element of a product or service where there is application-related “value-add.” Too bad that “solutions” has been ruined by overuse, especially by producers of standardized, off-the-shelf products.

Web home pages and capabilities brochures are peppered with it; we’ve seen as many 6 or 8 uses in the first few paragraphs. When it comes right down to it, everything you really need to buy is a solution. A paper clip is a solution. So there isn’t much punch or insight that comes from calling it a solution.

Substitute words you could use? “Answers” or “remedies” … or simply leave the word out. Example: “ABC Company provides business software solutions that help…” can be edited to “ABC Company provides business software that helps…” without losing any meaning or clarity.

It’s even more dangerous to rely on “solutions” to anchor a tag line, or even a whole branding strategy. In his article No more solutions, please in the February 12th 2007 issue of B-to-B magazine, Mike Stefaniak comments: “By 2000, the term was quickly becoming devalued from overuse. Today, it’s dead—void of any capacity to differentiate a company’s brand.”

“Solving problems is now as expected as quality, speed, innovation, ‘highly-engineered’ or a host of other prerequisites for competing. Nonetheless, far too many business-to-business companies continue to stake their brands to entry-level attributes. And ‘solutions’ remains at the top of the list.”



In this era of business collaborations and partnerships, how do you describe two people or business entities that are in sync, working together as events and opportunities unfold. “Mapping” is a novel term. It connotes both “tracking” where you’ve been, and also looking forward…breaking new ground. In the right context, it can impart a sense of achievement. Speaking of which, we’d like to do some mapping in sync with your thoughts and wishes. Please feel free to contribute power words or sour words (lame or game), or information on resources for business-to-business communicators.


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Leading is a Throw-away

February 15, 2007

IT’S LAME: “Leading” as an adjective

I recently surveyed several hundred business publication editors about words and phrases I felt were overused. The word “leading” (as in “… a leading producer of …”) was voted one of the worst. 94% surveyed felt it was overused. One editor called the word an automatic “throw-away” when he sees it in a press release.

Sticking the word “leading” into the description of a company is so common and so rote, it is meaningless. Where are the “followers?” Given that everybody uses it, “leading” certainly doesn’t mean #1 or even #2.

If you want to impress your prospects, quantify your company’s achievements, or describe your position and your USP within your market, then back up your claim. But watch out for slipping superlatives in there just for the heck of it. (i.e. unparalleled, unsurpassed). More about this in future posts.

IT’S GAME: “Distinguish” (to compare)

“Distinguish.” Use it in a sentence that specifically differentiates your product or service from the competition. Doing this helps us stay away from using broad, unsubstantiated brag-and-boast statements about being the best.

Example: “The unique ‘color-all-the-way-through’ feature of Monarch composite decking and railing distinguishes it from other wood or composite products where scratches and gouges show through the surface coloring.”

We want to post your opinions. Please comment on our “lame” and “game” choices, or add others.


For more ideas on avoiding formulaic writing, read one of the better articles on writing powerful press releases, by Ann Wylie of Wylie Communications: Write a World-Class Release

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