'Don’t Say That' - The Curmudgeon at Large
Words are our weapons. And too many self-proclaimed “wordsmiths” depend on pop-guns firing blanks instead of AK-47s and Glocks firing bullets.
Want to connect on a not-for-profit level? “Millennial terminology” can miss not just the bull’s-eye but the target.
Power seeps out of a message when a direct response writer either doesn’t bother or doesn’t know how to use words with muscle and settles for ... well, for just words.
Just so you won’t flip this page prematurely, here’s one of the most obvious possibilities that might rescue a weakened message:
Avoid this word: among.
Bet you weren’t expecting that one. But now that you’ve been exposed to it as a flabby competitor, give yourself a competitive analytical edge by skipping around the dictionary or thesaurus (or in extremis the human brain), seeking strength where “among” has bestowed weakness.
Obviously the first move is to decide why “among” transmits no impression of superiority or uniqueness or distinction or exclusivity or whatever the hell else might add advantage or supremacy. Even if I’m “among” the first to enjoy what you’re selling, I’m one of a mob. The very word “among” denies singular superiority. It denies uniqueness. It denies distinction, exclusivity, and ... well, you get the idea.
So a suggestion you might consider: For the rest of your life, plus six months, don’t use the word “among.” Your copy will improve because it will be more positively targeted.
OK, that’s a beginning. Let’s move along.
More Implicitly Weak Words
We won’t fall into the standard cliché-trap of listing no-no words alphabetically. But right at the elbow of “among” is another weakener — available.
So what’s wrong with “available”? This: it absolutely denies uniqueness. “Available” says others exist, but we don’t have it. Compare “These are the most impressive words available” with “You just won’t find other words that can compete” and you’ll absorb a smidgen of the image-loss resulting from refusal or inability to lift a claim above all competition. Cleverness isn’t part of the mix. Word-image is.
Herschell Gordon Lewis is president of Lewis Enterprises in Pompano Beach, Florida. Author of 32 books including “On the Art of Writing Copy” (now in its fourth edition), “Hot Appeals or Burnt Offerings,” and “How to Write Powerful Catalog Copy,” he is a member of the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at 954.782.1750 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Cell is 954.600.7073.