5 reasons to avoid clichés in your business writing

Why business owners should avoid clichés in their writing


Photograph by Drew Hays

You know a cliché as soon as you hear one. “The perfect stocking filler.” “So what are you waiting for?” “Treat your mum on Mother’s Day.” “The ideal solution to one of life’s little problems.” Promotional and marketing copy is littered with them and it’s hardly surprising – they trip off the tongue so easily that anyone who is writing to a deadline might well be tempted to use them. But what goes through your mind when you read a cliché? The likelihood is that you roll your eyes and move on to the next thing – you’ve heard to all before, hundreds of times, for a plethora of products that didn’t interest you; why should this be any different? Endless repetition renders a phrase meaningless and drains it of its impact. Here are five more reasons for giving clichés a wide berth.

They suggest a lack of original ideas
Writing about your products or services, or about a subject related to your industry, is your chance to demonstrate your expertise and explain what makes your company unique. You are giving potential customers a reason to come to you rather than one of your rivals – to show what makes you stand out from the crowd. If you only repeat hackneyed phrases that have been used time and again by other people then you are wasting the opportunity to explain what makes you different – and the customer can only conclude that your company is nothing special.­

They disengage the reader
We see a staggering amount of text every day. From social media and blog posts to flyers, ads, magazine articles, posters, newsletters and catalogues, we are inundated with the written word. Out of necessity, we subconsciously scan and filter our way through, only stopping to read and absorb information of real interest. Clichés act as triggers that tell our brains that this piece of writing is not worth our precious time – it’s not going to tell us anything new or offer us anything different. We stop reading and move on.

They’re a missed opportunity
When you write to or for your customers – current or potential – you are trying to create or reinforce a positive relationship with them. If your writing is full of clichés then they won’t get any real sense of your brand personality and the chance to connect with them will be lost. Imagine meeting a group of people at a party for the first time – if you do nothing but talk about the weather and the price of milk, or trot out monotonous platitudes, then they won’t get any sense of who you really are.

They can lead to false claims
Many clichés fall into the grand claims category. “It’s what everyone’s been waiting for!” Er, is it really? “It’s simply the best!” Are you quite sure about that? “You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!” Pretty sure I won’t, actually. Quite apart from any legal ramifications, making huge promises or outrageous assertions gives the impression that you are untrustworthy, dishonest and perhaps a little desperate.

Avoiding them will make you a better writer
If you are not a very confident writer, then falling back on clichés can feel comforting. They sound familiar, they sound “right”, and you don’t believe that you can come up with anything better. But forcing yourself to spot and avoid clichés in your own writing, think about what you are really trying to say, and find a phrase that more accurately conveys your message, will improve your writing enormously. How would you express this idea to a friend? What words or phrases would you use? Don’t be afraid to write in your own voice – yes, you need to maintain a professional persona but allowing your personality, or that of your brand, to shine through, is what will make your words stand out and grab your readers’ attention.

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