Your target audiences—whether physicians, physicists, or pizza chefs—are bombarded with content from every direction. With so many emails, social media posts, and ads coming at them, it doesn’t take much for them to lose interest and move to the next headline.
Awkward, wordy, weak content will send them packing faster than my cat when he hears the doorbell ring.
Eliminating unnecessary words is an easy way to crystallize your message, strengthen your content, and ensure your words grab and hold your readers’ attention. For example, industry jargon, when used sparingly, can show a niche audience you’re part of their community. Superfluous tech jargon, however, doesn’t add value or impact. Better to use regular words to clarify what you’re trying to say.
Filler words seem innocent enough, but they clutter up your writing, which means they dilute your message. Weasel words diminish an otherwise strong statement into something tentative and weak.
First, here are some industry buzzwords and jargon that I see too often and are too vague to mean much. Instead of resorting to these popular words and phrases, consider a more specific statement.
Ecosystem: Unless you’re writing about the rainforest, cut it. Consider connected system or system.
360-degree view: Usually this overused phrase refers to data and/or patients. Describe what makes the profile so 360-degree comprehensive.
Actionable insights: This phrase is so overused by data analytics companies that it means nothing. What insights can your software provide? What is the result of action?
Silos: If you believe what you read, everyone and everything lives in silos that must be broken through to survive. Unless you’re writing about farming, find another way to describe disconnected systems.
Digital transformation: Healthcare and life sciences can use technology to get more done in less time. It will take a lot more than digital to transform these industries.
Workflows: Gah! It’s work performed in a certain order. Data and IT teams need to develop and follow workflows. I get it. In content, you can talk about information exchange without making everything a workflow.
Honorable mention: end-to-end, best-in-class, state-of-the-art, innovative, disruptive. What do you offer? How do you do it better or different than your competitors? Be specific!
Filler words to limit or eliminate for clearer, more concise writing
“That” is the most overly used filler word. When it falls in between phrases, it’s often unnecessary.
“We work closely with our clients to execute the strategy
that we have help ed develop.”
“Of” usually starts a clunky phrase that you can reword for smoother reading.
of the box.” “Manufacturing requires careful inspection of all equipment.” vs “Inspect manufacturing equipment carefully.”
“Just” weakens whatever you’re trying to say. Get rid of it.
just a billionaire.”
“And then” sucks the power from your writing. Ditto for “and so.”
“I bought an amazing chocolate milkshake[.]
, and then I savored every sip.”
“At all times” is unnecessary.
“Watch for the peacock on Tunnel Road
at all times.”
“In order to” pops up often in business writing. Let it go.
“We run clinical trials
in order to test safety and effectiveness.”
“Basically” and “essentially” add nothing. If you start your sentence with either, delete.
Basically, I’m a mediocre chef. I’m essentially useless in the kitchen unless I’m washing dishes.”
Ditch weasel words for stronger messaging
Weasel words are nasty fillers that not only take up space, but also weaken or contradict what you’re trying to say. Avoid them at all costs.*
*Exception: When your content relates to regulated products, certain weasel words are necessary to meet medical/legal review requirements. For example, a pharmaceutical “may” cause drowsiness.
In general business or marketing writing that doesn’t relate to regulated products, avoid weasel words by getting specific—and confident. Marketing content and copy is no place to get wishy-washy.
Avoid “maybe” and “may be.” Do you or don’t you? Gather the research to back up your claim and state it. “We
may be are the leading IRT provider in Germany.”
You can also delete “probably.”
“Perhaps” is a more formal version of “maybe.” Get it out of your content.
Perhaps you’re right.”
Most adverbs are weaselly and best replaced with a stronger verb.
“The rocky road ice cream
is very good.” “The rocky road ice cream is luscious.”
There you go!
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