2015 is coming to a close, which means it’s time to say goodbye to old baggage holding you back. Specifically, those lazy, boring, imprecise phrases you keep putting into your work.
Know that all of this comes from a place of love. I want you to write prose that people want to read. More than that, I want you writing prose you will be proud to read five years down the line.
Here’s to hoping that when the ball drops on December 31, you bid a not-so-fond bon voyage to the following phrases I now declare verboten.
1. It’s [the current year]
It doesn’t matter if you’re the Prime Minister of Canada or hacking it out in the trenches of content creation—this phrase is at the top of the list for a reason. Pointing to a calendar doesn’t actually explain anything. Some readers might nod and pat themselves on the back in agreement, but anyone not on board will scratch their head in confusion or assume you are a lazy writer. Explain the merits of a position or don’t bring it up at all.
2. Because reasons
Again, what are those reasons? Even when the intent is to mock an argument you find spurious or mendacious, explain precisely why you think said arguments are spurious and mendacious. Beyond the sheer laziness of not actually wanting to explain anything, there’s something dramatically infantile about “because reasons.” See also: “because of course he does.”
3. Wow. Just wow.
Anytime I see an adult use this phrase, whether it’s in an article, in a blog post, or in a Facebook comment, I automatically assume I’m dealing with a garden variety idiot. I might not be, but it sure saves time.
When you write “wow, just wow,” you haven’t expressed even the vaguest kernel of an idea. Instead, you’ve stood there, pointing and sputtering, letting everyone know you disapprove. That’s great, maybe. Tell us what you disapprove of and why you disapprove of it. Otherwise, just keep quiet.
Amazing isn’t a bad word, but it’s become the national crutch for anything that’s really very super awesome or really, really good. Given the number of words in the English language that mean varying shades of good, it’s not clear how this one got picked as the go-to crutch. Sadly, it’s worn out its welcome, and you should use any other word you can find.
6. Little did I know
“Little did I know” should be filed alongside phrases like “since the dawn of time, man has wondered.” Approximately 90 percent or so of the “think pieces” (a phrase I am only not banishing so that I may use it as a source of derision) running in 2015 hinged upon some “little did I know” moment that wraps everything up into a neat little lesson.
It’s almost the equivalent of “I think,” followed by the writer’s opinion. To use another cliché, shouldn’t you be showing us, not telling us?
7. In order to
Why use two extra words when “to” gets the same point across?
8. Studies show
Which studies? What was the methodology? Were the studies repeated? By whom? I get that an entire sector of the economy survives by taking the sexiest nugget of information out of a study, depriving it of all context, then breathlessly reporting it as revolution in science. Still, don’t you think there’s something more interesting in explaining the real context and implications of a study to the layman? I know what I’d rather read.
Of all the worn-out business jargon floating around, this has to be the worst. When leverage gets used as a verb, I immediately know I’m reading something not written for me. People writing B2B content might still find use for this worn old war horse; everyone else should drop it in favor of a clearer word.
10. For all intents and purposes
Five words that introduce a statement that would probably stand on its own just fine.
11. Rock star, guru, ninja, and Jedi
There’s nothing about your command of Python, PhotoShop, PowerPoint, search engine optimization, content marketing, or copywriting that makes you even remotely like any of these. You do your thing, and leave the rock stars, gurus, ninjas, and Jedis of the world to do theirs.
12. Next level
“Next level” is sort of the business and copywriting version of “because reasons.” So something is next level? Why? How? Who says so? Tell me something about your product, what it does, why I want it, and how it’s going to make my life better.
13. All of the things
“All of the things” is a double whammy. Not only are you using this tired phrase that makes you sound about 12, you’re filling it with the least specific verb in the English language. For God’s sake, write like an adult.
This is another one of those words people use mostly because they’ve seen it in about 10,000 headlines and think it’s cute and clever. It’s not cute. It’s not clever. Find some other way to be cute and/or clever.
Never. Ever. Use. Exclamation. Points. Except. In. Fiction. Dialogue. Ever. Ever. Ever.