WORDS MATTER: Words to avoid online and how to share an authentic story

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

As storytelling and authenticity in public communications becomes more and more important for companies I keep stumbling across words that just don’t seem to work anymore – if they ever did. There are definitely words to avoid online. At least when blogging or writing on behalf of a brand.

Let’s start with some items that can undermine a brand’s or writer’s authority/credibility when used:

  • Perhaps
  • Probably
  • It seems
  • Maybe
  • I guess

All of these add some doubt to the message. “Perhaps” this is what happened? If we don’t know don’t say it. Say what we know. That’s the best way to build authority on a subject – especially online: Talk about what you know. Don’t exaggerate either. These are words to avoid online.

While we are talking about exaggeration. There are some other terms along those lines that should just be eliminated.

  • This FANTASTIC event.
  • Everyone has/will have fun.

  • Biggest event ever.
  • The best
  • The fastest
  • The slickest

All those absolute terms and terms that assign value to something are best left out of copy, too.

Of course, we think our product is THE BEST one but I wouldn’t recommend saying it like that in copy. Show why it’s the best. Give an example. Maybe have a testimonial from an (early adopter) customer. “Here’s why I use this product and here’s the problem it solves for me.” Isn’t that much more powerful than the marketer saying: “Here’s my new product. The best product in the market. It probably also does x.”

How do people learn to write like this? I think there are a few ways:

  • Think about the facts! What actual facts can be shared? Don’t think about “what’s our message” or “how can we spin this?” What is true that helps us share our brand promise and value equation.
  • Think about authenticity. How can we be honest about what we do and why it helps the customer? For example, Apple apologizing for changing map apps on iOS devices was authentic. That doesn’t mean we can only be authentic when it’s something potentially negative or when we apologize. Authenticity and transparency can happen all the time.
  • Show people the benefit of this. The first time it is done capture consumer behavior and share the results. I’d bet overall feedback will be positive.
  • Have coffee with a journalist from time to time (unless you went to journalism school yourself) and find out how journalists work. Many skills that I’ve learned in journalism school and in 8+years in the news industry are directly transferable to the new digital content universe.

There are probably other ways and other words that could be added to the list. Feel free to send them to me if you think of them.

It’s probably 🙂 true that using strong and authentic language and sharing strong and meaningful stories can set brands apart!

Related: Why businesses are switching to online content marketing