We live in a world where even the most intentional readers give into the temptation to skim. That means not only do words matter, but every word counts. Your message or your story should shine in content - not get lost in the fluff.
To make sure every word counts, keep an eye out for these ten words and phrases that add nothing, lose your reader, and muddle your message.
1. very (and all other adverbs)
Quick high school English lesson: an adverb is a word that describes a verb/another adverb/an entire sentence. Many adverbs in -y or -ly which makes them easy to spot. This includes: simply, really, truly, actually, extremely, etc.
In writing, adverbs slow down the reader without adding any value. Get rid of them.
While also an adverb, “just” is tricky and easily finds its way into writing, so it deserves its own spot on the list. Unless you’re Nike, It’s redundant and unnecessary. Removing the word tightens up your copy and your overall tone.
It’s a fine word except it’s overused. For a while, ‘utilize’ became the hip, sleek go-to term instead of ‘use.’ The two words mean the same thing and you aren’t losing any meaning by using the simpler one.
“We have you covered.” “Hit the ground running.” “Move the needle.”
These phrases have lost their impact from overuse. There’s nothing fresh about them. Instead of relying on a cliche, dig in and think about the core of what you’re trying to say. Does hit the ground running mean getting started in less than X amount of time? Say that.
5. $10 dollar synonyms
Close out your thesaurus.com tab.
It’s tempting to drop in fancy words throughout your writing, but you aren’t here to impress anyone with your vocabulary. You're here to communicate a clear message, and these synonyms slow down readers and even turn some readers off.
Use these words in casual conversation all day long, but they hold little meaning in writing. For your reader, it falls flat.
You might find yourself writing: “we offer several great benefits packages.” Think about what makes them “great.” Are they affordable? Comprehensive?
Always choose to be specific over vague.
7. next level
This is another phrase that gained a lot of traction in recent years - it's time to slow down with it. Unless you’re talking about going from one floor to the next or video games, leave the level talk out of your writing.
Instead of “take your fitness to the next level”, consider what that looks like for your reader. Maybe you mean that the next level is a fitness routine that’s consistent and challenging. Find a way to work that into your message instead of a vague reference to leveling up.
Maybe you are the best at what you do, but you don’t want to tell your audience that. Be humble and instead show them you are the best.
9. click here
In today’s world of click-bait and online spam, “click here” leaves people feeling hesitant.
Beyond that, this phrase is not inclusive for readers with disabilities. Screen readers will say "click here", but the person using the screen reader will not know where the link takes them and if it contains the content they're looking for.
Shift your “click here” tendencies to include action-orientated phrases. Instead of “click here for our newsletter”, you can say “Read our newsletter.”
10. not to mention
All this phrase does is take up space because in the end, you’re mentioning the thing you said you weren't going to mention.
From external marketing materials to internal team communications, your writing has a purpose. Keeping an eye out for these words and phrases makes sure that purpose doesn’t get lost.