January is halfway over. It’s a bit late for resolutions. But I am a writer, and therefore, an incurable procrastinator.
Writers, you may or may not know, dilly. Dally. Dawdle. Lollygag. We can’t be bothered to crack our laptops unless a deadline is breathing down our necks. I once wrote an entire corporate website in an afternoon.
OK, that’s an exaggeration. Which, by the way, is another one of our favorite pastimes. Procrastination and exaggeration are definitely the writer’s two favorite “ations.”
But to hell with all of that. It’s a new year. With that in mind, I’m here to publicly disavow the following bad habits, which have haunted copywriters like me for time immemorial. Here we go:
- I will no longer combine a word from this list—full, wide, vast, broad—with a word from this list—variety, range, array, selection—and follow it with “of choices” “of options,” or “of [slightly more specific noun, like, say, materials].” It’s time to retire this tired hack to the annals of Lazytown.
- I will no longer use an em-dash instead of a comma or period just because it looks cool. I also won’t use an em-dash to signal a dramatic pause before the end of an otherwise pedestrian sentence. After all, it’s not style that sells a message—it’s substance.
- I will no longer use “designed to” like so: “The heart is designed to pump blood throughout the body.” Or worse, “The lotion is specially designed to moisturize and replenish dry skin.” Those sentences are designed to be significantly more complicated than necessary.
- I will retire this formulation: “From [noun] to [noun], [company] has everything you need to [description of benefit].” How do two things somehow suddenly add up to “everything?” And what’s happening in that mysterious space between those two things? It’s like some no man’s land of theoretical stuff that may or may not exist. Not good.
- I will stop saying that particular products or services are “tailored” or “customized” to your “unique” needs. Not only is this almost never true, but your needs are not unique. Like Lenny Bruce said, we’re all the same schmuck.
- I will subject myself to 72 consecutive hours of ritual self-flagellation if I ever knowingly and intentionally use the phrase “state-of-the-art” anywhere, for any reason, ever again.
- I will steadfastly refuse to give up my crusade against the adjectivication of the world “impact.” I don’t care what the dictionary or popular usage says. “Impactful” is not a word. It’s a personal problem.
- I will never, ever suggest to the reader to “Do yourself a favor” and purchase a product or service. If you’re using that phrase in sales copy, do yourself a favor and stop it.
- I will use puns mercilessly, unapologetically, and without discretion. It’s the write thing to do.
- I’ll stop writing listicles. I swear.