Steer Clear of These 7 Dirty Words in your Marketing Content (Our Little Copywriting Tribute to George Carlin)

Estimated reading time: 10 minute(s)

If you love comedy, you’ll recognize a trailblazing routine that hit pop media in 1972—and lit up the nation with its (lasting) insights.

The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television was George Carlin’s rollicking monologue; the language he uses in it would land any TV production in seriously deep bleep—even today. His performance was a cultural lightning rod—and remains one of comedy’s most memorable and infamous. (Passing on writing any of those words here because, you know…we’re a b2b blog.) 

As a copywriter that’s also a lifelong Carlin fan, I found myself frowning at a word in my copy recently— which inspired me to put together this nifty list of the “dirty words” of content marketing. Which totally ubiquitous marketing-speak is the mushy sugar cookie (mediocre drivel) or the bowl haircut (dissonant and rude) of long-form content? Read on for our Carlin tribute.

But

Bad things happen before “but,” both in real life and in marketing copywriting. “But,” is a disqualifier, a word that walks back all earlier promises or claims. To quote Game of Thrones’ Benjen Stark, “Nothing anyone says before ‘but’ really counts.”

Best – Market Leader – Top

Ick. Superlatives like these are pointless drivel–claims that give marketing copy a bad name. They are especially prolific online, where brands that subscribe to the “more is more” philosophy pump out subpar content full of unfounded claims that they are “Best” and “Most” and “Top of the heap.” Unless you’ve won an award from a notable industry authority, skip the superlatives. They provide no value to consumers, and they damage credibility.

Quality

Nothing says “I don’t care about my product” more than using “quality” to describe it. Quality is banal and boring and basic. Find an angle, any angle. Do this by using the product, asking friends to use the product, looking to social media to read what others are saying about the product. In short, do some research, and dust off your Thesaurus.

We

“We” faces inward, versus out. It tells readers you’re interested in your agenda, not theirs. It’s the friend who talks only about himself. As with friendship, so too with marketing content. Eventually, you get bored or annoyed and opt out. Use “you” instead of “we” wherever you can. Your readers will appreciate your interest in their needs.  

Interesting – Nice

Interesting is the word people use when they don’t know what else to say. For example: You say something inane, and your friend says “That’s interesting” to avoid hurting your feelings. Nice, with its absence of distinction, strikes a similar tone. For example: When you described your cousin as “nice,” your friend canceled the blind date you’d planned for that night. The lesson: Describing your service, product, or brand as interesting or nice is underwhelming and unimpressive. Instead, identify its remarkable traits, and describe those traits using language worthy of a potential buyer’s time.

Innovative – Passionate – Excellent – Dedicated

Remember show, don’t tell? That first rule of writing espoused by every university professor who ever lived? These words are the antithesis of show, don’t tell. They are vague, overused filler that bore readers and tell them your product isn’t worthy of other, more exciting words. If you have to tell your readers you’re innovative, chances are, you’re not. 

If

“If’ tells readers that the claims you are making don’t always apply or aren’t always true. It indicates “special cases” and has a shady, “buyer beware” vibe that makes readers suspicious. When you must presuppose a condition, use “when” instead (as, for example, in this sentence). 

If interesting, top quality content by innovative writers is what you need, we are the team to provide it. Contact us today, and we promise to use none of the language in the preceding sentence.

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Amanda Cargill

Amanda Cargill is a Brooklyn-based writer, video producer, and marketing communications strategist specializing in food, travel, culture and lifestyle content in domestic, multicultural, and international markets.

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