[This entry originally appeared on Clare Lynch’s blog, goodcopybadcopy]
I know you want to give your business the best possible chance, but please don’t resort to describing it in the clichéd, exaggerated terms that every one else out there seems to want to use. Spend five seconds contemplating the literal meanings of some of the words on this list and you’ll realise exactly why they’re so awful.
Modern life is fraught with danger, courtesy of the “ultimate burger”, the “ultimate rollercoaster”, the “ultimate flooring”, the “ultimate detox” and the “ultimate ethical meal” (to cite just a handful). I’m particularly intrigued by the the progressive approach to population control that is the “Ultimate Day” – “an exciting competition exclusively for 16 and 17 year olds – to win an Ultimate Day!”
I’m willing to bet that most business people use “unprecedented” when what they really mean is “quite good”. Before drawing on this word ask yourself if what you’re describing really has never happened before. I’m only willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the US mortgage broker that claims to have “demonstrated unprecedented professionalism” when creating home loans for hundreds of clients. Presumably, all their competitors were sub-prime sharks.
It’s not enough to be merely competent these days. To stand out, your product or service has to be the ground-breaking, boundary-pushing, edge-cutting child of your (no doubt unprecedented) creative thinking. Estate agents, bankers and lawyers all now claim to be innovative. Still like the sound of it?
What do an overpriced lip gloss, an impractically tall lemon squeezer and a squeaky voiced, not terribly bright footballer have in common? Yep, they’ve all been labelled “iconic”. Thinking about elevating your product to the status of icon? Just to let you know: since Melanie C took on the “iconic” role of Mrs Johnstone in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, the word has been equated with a fictional woman you’ve never heard of, from a musical you’ve never seen, played by the least-famous former Spice Girl, whose existence you’d forgotten about until now.
Stunning food. Stunning cars. Stunning houses with stunning wallpaper. It’s time to replace this hyperbole with a synonym whose meaning hasn’t been eroded by overuse. I vote for “stupefying”.
A label invariably attached to the overpriced tat proffered in Sunday magazines by exploitative “collectables” firms. Use it if you want to be associated with such distinctly unexclusive items as the Kitten Dreams Fabergé-inspired Jewelled Musical Egg, which features over 125 hand-set ‘gems’ (inverted commas theirs) and the inscription ‘Kittens Leave Paw Prints On Our Hearts’.
Want to part from their money the people who are middle-class enough to sneer at the people who buy Kitten Dreams Fabergé-inspired Jewelled Musical Eggs, but who are still insecure enough to want to fill their houses with overpriced tat? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “designer radiators”, “designer sponges”, “designer cleaning fluid”, “designer water” and, yes, “designer tampons”. All paid for with a “designer mortgage”, no doubt.
What would you add to the list?