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Get to the point! Avoid these words and keep readers happy

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Keep readers happy: you keep using that word

It's not easy to keep readers happy, especially since we all react to words and phrases differently. There are words that can create beautiful images for the mind’s eye and those that, just by existing, make you want to slam your head through a table. The most loathsome offender I’ve seen recently is ‘Folksonomy.’ You want to know what it means? Social tagging. Hashtags. I mean....come on.

Words have power – especially in the world of tech writing and marketing. And using the wrong words - like buzzwords and clichés - can kill you.

OK, that was an exaggeration, but what buzzwords and clichés can do is immediately make your writing uninteresting (and even downright infuriating) to your reader. It doesn’t matter if you mean what you say if you don’t say what you mean.

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So if you want to keep readers happy, remember: keep it simple, write like a human being and don’t drive them away with meaningless drivel. Avoiding the words on this list will help you do this and help you keep your readers happy. Here we go:

  1. The Uber for X - Remember the scene in Empire Strikes Back when Luke is training? He’s doing all the running, flips and magic tricks and Yoda’s just riding along on his back? This is probably the only time I will ever say this: don’t be Yoda. Don’t use another successful company’s brand to try and boost your own. Strive to be your own slogan!

  2. Peel the Onion – This refers to the ‘examination of a problem in detail.’ Readers shouldn’t need to ‘peel the onion’ just to figure out what you’re talking about. Don’t do or say this.

  3. ‘Hack’ – Are you logging into secure servers? Are you breaking into the digital vaults of the CIA? You’re not hacking. You’re giving advice. And maybe not even good advice.

  4. Longest pole in the tent – In all honesty, this is probably the cleverest buzzword on this list. It refers to the ‘thing’ that holds everything up. Still, you should avoid it. Unless you’re literally talking about tents and camping.

  5. Punch a puppy – This means to do something detestable for the good of the business. Evocative imagery aside, its violence is gratuitous to almost Tarantino-esque levels. Nobody likes puppy punching.

  6. Disrupt – The only thing getting disrupted here is my enjoyment of your blog. This word was fine when businesses were truly disruptive within an industry. But, it’s used so often as to become meaningless.

  7. Rock star or Ninja – You’ve seen it before. ‘Oh, we’re Excel rock stars.’ Yet, unlike great rock Stars and famous ninjas, these terms don’t seem to disappear and we’re sick of hearing them.

The supply of online content is seemingly infinite. A reader’s patience is not. When writing, always remember the reader wants to receive information. If you make them work too hard for it, they will go elsewhere.

So if you want to keep readers happy and you have a message to share, say it straight up. Don’t drive your audience away with meaningless words and slogans. And while you're at it, take a look at these 50 words that will improve your writing.


Use our free guide to hone your writing skills and better persuade your readers, no matter who they are.