I don’t need to tell you this, but…the online world is multiplying and morphing at a freaking incredible rate. A fresh new catch-phrase or idea debuts on a Tuesday and has spread to every corner of the web by Friday.
By then it’s all over our newsfeeds and inboxes, giving us an uncomfortable sense of deja vu. And that’s when we stop paying attention.
A few months ago, I wrote about this epidemic of accidental copycat-ism in a blog post that turned out to be pretty popular. I know there are lots of people feeling the same sense of fatigue that I do, and wondering how to stand out in this noisy world.
Today I’d like to drill down a little deeper—to the level of the word. How can we write with originality when we have to use the same tired vocabulary as everyone else?
Over-used and achingly familiar…
We usually know when a certain word or phrase has been used one too many times. When we write it down it feels too easy. We know we’d be better off avoiding it—and that our ideal clients are more likely to respond to originality—but while we’re writing it seems impossible to think of another way.
But I’ve got to be honest: the longer I do this work, and the more solopreneur websites I poke around, the less tolerant I become of anything familiar.
Here’s why it’s a problem…
When we read something we’ve heard a bazillion times before, it’s impossible to feel a human connection with the writer. The second we encounter their worn-out language, everything becomes vague and murky. All we can do is skim the surface of this person and their business: there’s no deep connection to be made.
Annnnd we bounce.
But it doesn’t have to be like this for you.
You’re unique. Your business does something wonderfully specific. Your copy needs to reflect that.
Some of “those” words…
Here’s what I’m talking about. These aren’t evil words, and you don’t need to completely banish them from your vocabulary. But let’s talk about it.
I repeat: there are ways to use these words without making your reader’s eyes glaze over. I use them myself.
The real trouble comes when we cling to them as if they are full of inherent wisdom and meaning and do not require further elaboration. Or when we bunch them all together as if they tell a full story on their own.
I help my clients reduce stress and overwhelm so they can live with confidence, abundance, freedom, authenticity and ease.
Please don’t write like that.
Specificity is the solution
Sweet Susan, I could talk about specificity all the live-long day.
It’s the key to bringing your writing to life. If you want your reader to imagine, understand and feel what you’re writing about, you’ve got to be specific.
So that’s the good news. You can use some of these overused words as long as you pair them with specific details that allow your reader to fully grasp what you’re describing.
When you’re writing, ask yourself: in this particular context, what does “clarity” look like? What kind of “stress” am I actually referring to?
You might find that you can use another word entirely: great! If not, you just need to work a bit harder to bring that sentence to life.
1. Use the exact words and phrases your client uses to describe their hopes, dreams, and frustrations.
2. Use the exact words and phrases you find YOURSELF using when you talk to your clients (especially during discovery calls/initial consultations).
3. Use your imagination to describe your reader’s problems and dreams in concrete, specific detail. Is your potential client “overwhelmed” by email subscriptions or high-maintenance clients or a messy house, or perhaps all of the above? Is “confidence” about wearing a bathing suit for the first time post-baby, or sharing a blog post on social media without breaking out in hives? Big difference.
4. Use humility and humour to draw specific details from your own everyday life. After all, you know your own experience best; its realness with surely resonate! It’s okay to make fun of yourself a little. It makes you likeable.
[Tweet “You’re unique. Make sure your writing is too.”]
Take a time out…
The next time you feel compelled to use one of these oh-so-familiar words, stop for a sec. Is there another word you can use instead? If not, can take your idea a little bit further so it becomes more concrete?
Learning how to write with specificity is key to connecting with your reader. When my clients get better at this, their writing improves tremendously.
I’d love to hear from you. What over-used words or phrases are driving you crazy? Or is it time for you to revise your copy?