One Word Every Good Copywriter Should Avoid

Here is the first thing you should know about me: when writing copy I do not use the word unparalleled. Scratch that; when writing copy I will not use the word unparalleled. Ever. A wannabe adverb if ever there was one, I have grown as weary of people describing things as being unparalleled as I am of the laugh/cry emoji, gel tips, and the 3/4 side-profile selfie. In fact, my singular reason for not traveling back in time to, say, 1834, is that the word unparalleled was used approximately 0.0003% more often*.

WORD CRIMES

Now I grant you that some word crimes are more heinous than others; but we’re talking about an epidemic along the lines of ‘bro’ here. Yeah, it’s that serious. How can I be sure? Allow me to explain:

Last month I embarked upon a crude experiment to see just how deep our little problem runs. As it turns out, we’re up to our knees and sinking fast. Keeping track of the websites I visited for work throughout the day, I returned late at night to scour the copy on their pages. What I found disturbed me. Deeply. More than 80% of the websites I visited during the month of June used the word unparalleled to describe their services or products. From law offices to mining companies, make-up artists, real estate moguls, photographers, bridal gown boutiques, corporate placement firms, luxury travel package planners, physical trainers — even aura energy field cleaners — the phenomenon of the word unparalleled in advertising and branding is truly, well…unparalleled.

But one offender stands out from the rest. Like a glow-in-the-dark 80s leotard shouting, “Look at me!” no industry on earth has overused the word unparalleled like real estate.

MOST DANGEROUS OFFENDER

Should you doubt my powers of observation, a simple Google search will illustrate my point. A quick peek at any online real estate advertisement and you’ll be soaking in the unparalleled views from an unparalleled location that provides unparalleled privacy in an area known for its unparalleled lifestyle before you know it. Not that fussy? Take a tour through a private residence that offers unparalleled craftsmanship and landscaping in a community with an unparalleled friendliness factor. Reading through these ads is like stepping on a land mine; but instead of magma-hot shrapnel you’ve just been sprayed by a less menacing (though no less painful) enemy — bad writing.

SPECIAL CRIMES UNIT

This may be a good time to point out the obvious: if every view from every balcony advertised online is unparalleled, either someone’s lying, or, it’s not that special after all. I have often thought the world would be a better place were there a special crimes unit dedicated to snuffing out perpetrators of poor copywriting. Sadly, there is no such thing. And so I continue my digital tirade…

Here are some examples of businesses I came across who use the word unparalleled on their website. (Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is probably not coincidental.)

  • A law office offering “unparalleled service.” (It was italicized for effect.)
  • A skin care line offering salt bath soaks with an “unparalleled concentration of minerals.”
  • A luxury car dealership that promises to offer you an “unparalleled experience.” (It was unclear whether they meant the car or the dealers?)
  • A clothing store about to unveil an “unparalleled spring collection.” (What word will they use to describe it next year?)
  • A gym promising to offer “unparalleled motivation.” (It was unclear how they planned to do this?)

Still not convinced? Let’s look at some direct quotes from real estate advertisements.

  • “Unparalleled style and construction.”
  • “Unparalleled ocean view property.”
  • “Unparalleled elegance.”
  • “Unparalleled custom home.”

On and on it goes…

LOCK IT UP! LOCK IT UP!

It’s clear to me that our reliance upon unparalleled has gone too far. Someone needs to take control of the situation. And if you think I’m being too hard on our digital neighbors, consider this: do any of the statements above mean anything to you? Did describing their service or product as unparalleled clarify anything for you? Did the use of unparalleled in just one of these examples provide you with any additional information (like perhaps why they’re so unparalleled)? Me neither.

Here’s the thing. People like to talk (and write) a lot; but that doesn’t mean they’re saying anything. Lazy, unclear, unspecific language is one of my greatest pet peeves — and if you’re out there hawking your goods online, or trying to help someone else who is, it should be one of yours too.

 

To comment on this blog, feel free to send me a clear and succinct note. To drive me into a state of asylum-like rage, describe it as unparalleled.

*So says Google.

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