10 Words We All Need to Stop Using in 2016

Yep, it’s that time of year.

While you’ll never hear me utter “the R-word” — except to impart how much I deplore that resolution thing — I agree that the turn of a year is a good occasion to take out the trash and kick some old habits to the curb.

Speaking of taking out the trash, can we all agree to pull out our proverbial Hefty bags and send these played-out words to the dumpster?

1. “Edgy”

Does anybody even know what this word means anymore? I’ve seen it bandied about in so many contexts that the most accurate definition I can come up with is “not completely antiquated and sucky.

Words to use instead: Just say what you mean. When the Food Network announced it was taking its programming in a more “edgy” direction, all they meant was that they’d be featuring more competition shows. Why not just say that?

2. “Mind-blowing”

Come on, folks. You know you’re better than that.

Words to use instead: I’m reminded of Margaret Thatcher’s famous quote “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” Same goes with your content. Don’t tell me it’s amazing. Just amaze me.

Which brings me to …

3. “Amazing”

Not only is this word more played-out than Miley Cyrus’ tongue — it’s also lazy writing. It’s an easy go-to that robs us of the chance to express true wonder.

Words to use instead: Here are 101 of ’em.

4. “Game changer” / “Game-changing”

Our game is constantly changing, whether someone deliberately sets out to change it or not.

Words to use instead: “Innovative” and “original” are still perfectly valid descriptors. No hyperbole needed.

5. “Interestingly”

This is one of those words that makes me want to carve my eyeballs out with a spork. If you didn’t think it was interesting, you wouldn’t be writing about it. And if you’re telling me that I should find it interesting, you’re disrespecting your reader.

Words to use instead: None. Don’t tell me it’s interesting. Let me decide for myself.

6. “Literally”

Oh, “literally.” You poor, dear, horribly abused little child. You’ve been misused so badly, so often, that now even your correct usage spawns a million eye-rolls. Rest, dear. We’ll call you back in a few years.

Words to use instead: Again, none. If you sense the possibility of confusion between your figurative meaning and your literal meaning, it’s time for a rewrite.

7. “All in”

I’ve seen this useless phrase bandied about to market everything from server-grade computers to chicken wings. It’s a phrase used in poker when a player shoves all his or her chips into the pot … but do we really need it?

Words to use instead: Plain English to the rescue — how about simply “committed?”

8. [Pick an adverb. Any adverb.]

Stephen King said it best: “The road to Hell is paved with adverbs.”

Adverbs make for lazy writing and clog your tight prose with useless additional syllables. Instead of “he walked quickly,” why not say “he dashed” or “he darted” or “he flew?”

Words to use instead: Substitute “verb + adverb” with a punchy verb that does the duty of both.

9. “Disruptive”

See #4. We live in a state of constant disruption, so get over yourself.

Words to use instead: Instead of telling me that someone or something is “disruptive,” show me how and why.

10. “Viral”

If a new prospect calls me asking for my help in creating some “viral” content, I thank them for their interest and refer them to my biggest competitor. For one thing, we cannot create viral content any more than a Hollywood studio can create a blockbuster movie: it’s the market that decides. For another, the “viral” mindset focuses on quantity (of likes, shares, views, etc.) instead of quality (engaging the people you want to reach), which flies in the face of our mission as content marketers.

Words to use instead: None. Instead of creating content with the goal of amassing as many likes as possible, create content that speaks to the needs of your audience.


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