As we’ve learned more about how potential customers perceive certain words and phrases, we’ve found some surprises. Here’s a collection of “bad words” to avoid at all costs – and the reasons why!

Buy – people don’t want to buy things; it reminds them that money is leaving them! They do like to Get, Reserve, or Invest, however.

Cheap – implies poor quality. If you’re referring to price, use AffordableReasonable or Intelligently-Priced.

Cost – see Buy. Use Payment, which sounds less personal, or Give Us, which carries a sense of a very small favor.

Contract – fine print, blah blah blah, no escape – there’s nothing good about this word.

If – can be acceptable in the proper context. Otherwise, consumers perceive it as a potential excuse for you to disappoint them. Use When.

Honestly – because you’ve been dishonest so far?

Hope – you can hope all you want, but why not Guarantee?

Learn – tells people they have to make an effort, and might trigger traumatic memories of an evil second-grade teacher. Try Discover instead. Exception: you’re actually providing training, instruction, or highly-relevant information.

Maybe – but probably not.

No Problem – suggests that maybe it is. Use You’re Welcome or I’ll Be Happy To….

Obviously – if it’s so obvious, your audience shouldn’t need to be told.

Offer – implies a sales technique as seen on TV.

Opportunity – this word smells like a MLM scam.

Perhaps – see Maybe.

Price – see Cost.

Purchase – people don’t like to purchase any more than they want to buy.

Sell – people don’t like to be sold.

Stuff – “stuff” is the collection of junk under a 7-year-old’s bed. Is that what your company handles?

Tell – do you like being told how it’s gonna be? Neither does anyone else. It implies they are submissive and you are dominating them. Reveal or Share, instead.

Things – not quite as bad as Stuff, but it still implies you can’t name your product.

Top – everyone claims it, but we all know there isn’t much room there. Most-Requested, Preferred, or Highly-Rated would be more impressive – they imply social proof.

Read your material carefully, critically, and even skeptically. A really great test is to read it aloud in a sarcastic tone – if a word stands out, it needs to be replaced.

– Adina


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