Five Cliches to Avoid in Marketing

We’ve all said it, done it, written it, read it in marketing and elsewhere. We’ve all used the ubiquitous cliché.

The guy in the office you call, “A breed apart.”

Mentioning the “hustle and bustle” of your day.

Things that will “knock your socks off.”


Clichés creep into our writing like ants onto an unswept floor. It happens when we let our thoughts wander, or push too hard to get things done in less time than they need.  Think about how often you hear people say, “ya know,” or “I’m, like” in ordinary conversation. Clichés, yes – because we are not as mindful of our words as we should be.

“Clichés were like plaque in the arteries of the imagination,

they clogged the sense of what was possible. “

(Charlie Jane Anders)

Here are five clichés to avoid in marketing, or any form of communication:

  1. At this point in time…  Each second that passes is “this point in time,”  By the time you’ve finished saying or reading the phrase, the point in time has passed. Instead of “At this point in time you may be shopping for a new oven,” just say, “Shopping for a new oven…”
  2. Each and every…  “each” is individual, “every”is collective. Pick one or the other.
  3. In other words… Generally used as a dependent phrase when you think the way you originally phrased something is too complex to be understood. Rather than expressing it twice, work a little harder to simplify what your saying right from the start.
  4. Quite simply… This is a variation of “In other words.”
  5. Due to the fact that… Stop it. Just state the fact. “Tom won’t be at work today, he broke his leg skiing over the weekend.”

What clichés do you think are the most annoying?

Word Trivia #4

Wednesday Word Trivia info is derived from the writings of the late Word and Trivia Researcher L.M. Boyd.

Today’s Trivia:


When a Roman peasant died, friends turned a harrow upside down, used the spikes for candle holders, and put the body on it, thus to drag the remains to burial. Our word “hearse” came from the Latin for “harrow.”

HERE is an expanded explanation


flow versus impact in marketing

In his  book, “The Art of Writing Copy,” Marketing wiz H.G. Lewis said:

Tying two statements together with “and” adds flow and subtracts impact.

Here is an Example of what he means:

Which bullet point is stronger?

  1. In  my line of work, every word counts, and I practice what I call “word economy.”
  2. In my line of work, every word counts. I practice what I call “word economy.”

Line one has flow, but the “and” dilutes the strength of both statements.  Line two creates a momentary loss of flow, but retains the impact of the individual statements.

Maybe you’ll guffaw. Maybe you’ll think that a one-word, comma-versus-period change isn’t worth your thought or effort. But I challenge you to give it a try in your next marketing campaign, particularly if you are limited to a specific word count.  Write your first draft, then, as Lewis recommends, “cold-bloodedly” remove the “ands” when they link two thoughts. Then read the statements out loud, considering the intent of the overall campaign.

Which are you after – flow, or impact?


Word Trivia #3

Wednesday Word Trivia info is derived from the writings of the late Word and Trivia Researcher L.M. Boyd.

Today’s Trivia:

If the chair on which the bishop sat had not been called a “cathedra,” the building in which the chair was kept would not have been called a “cathedral.”

If the saint’s cape had not been called a “chapele,” the building in which it was kept would not have been called a “chapel,” nor would the guard at the building, the keeper of the cloak, have been called a “chaplain.”


Four sayings that lead to wisdom

If you’ve had any conversation of significance with me in the last two years, you know I am a huge fan of the Canadian mystery writer, Louise Penny, author of the Inspector Gamache series.

From the first book in the series, Still Life, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache tells the detectives under his supervision there are four saying that lead to wisdom. They are:

  • I was wrong
  • I’m sorry
  • I don’t know
  • I need help

Seems to me these four statements are the underpinnings of quality relationships and great customer service, no matter what business you might be in. Ultimately, much about our relationships – personal or business – depends our our willingness to admit to being human.

Why is it sometimes so hard to say, “I was wrong”?

When did it become a sign of weakness to say,  “I don’t know,” or “I need help”?

And what healing could come if we all had the courage just to say, “I’m sorry”?

I read a post recently that said we must learn to accept the apology we never received. I think we must also learn to give the apology that might never be accepted. I’ve begun, in my morning meditation, to offer forgiveness and/or apology to those I may never see or hear from again. In the end, the one we must forgive, and the one to whom we must apologize, is ourselves.

I’ve been wrong. I’m often sorry. There are many things I don’t know, and many times I need help.

How about you?


Word Trivia #2

Wednesday Word Trivia info is derived from the writings of the late Word and Trivia Researcher L.M. Boyd.

Today’s Trivia:

Q: What “Man” was the Isle of Man named after?
A: “Manannan,” the legendary Celtic lord of the sea

Manannan mac Lir is likely the most prominent sea deity of Irish mythology and literature. With his sea-borne chariot, affiliation with horses and cloak of invisibility, he guards the otherworld and the afterlife, incorporating aspects of the ancient Greek gods Poseidon and Hades.

Read more of this story HERE


The Six Emotions that Impact Everyone

David Brooks


David Brooks, the 1990 World Champion of Public Speaking was in Toledo, Ohio last November, as the keynote speaker for the District 28 Toastmasters Fall Conference.

He talked about a trivia column he read years ago, in which the author – one L.M. Boyd, noted that every human being experiences six emotions:

          happiness           sadness         anger          surprise          disgust           fear

The gist of his presentation, relating to professional speakers, was this: The best way to connect with an audience – in person, over the airwaves or internet, is to share moments in your own life that elicit the emotion you want them to feel. When you share a moment that brought you happiness, most people will share that same sense of happiness as you tell it. As Mr. Brooks says, “They may not have been there for the moment, but they will be there for the emotion.”

How can and will you use L.M. Boyd’s wisdom in marketing your product, your service, or yourself as a public speaker?

Word Trivia #1

Wednesday Word Trivia info is derived from the writings of the late Word and Trivia Researcher L.M. Boyd.

Today’s Trivia:

Makers of medieval calendars marked two days of each month as evil days.

They were called the “Dies Mali,” days during which nothing good was supposed to happen.

Their label eventually became our word “dismal.”



The Generic Determination Rule

Sometimes in speech writing and marketing you can change the audience’s perception without changing the facts. One way to do this is by putting psychology to work with The Generic Determination Rule. Detailed by famed Direct Marketing/Copywriting Guru Herschel Gordon Lewis, the rule states:

“The generic determines reaction more than the number.”

This means that when you are indicating time, size, distance, or a number of other factors related to your product or service, the generic⏤months versus days, hours versus minutes, miles versus feet⏤is more important than the number attached to it.

Lewis gives a great example when he asks “What if McDonald’s Quarter Pounder were called McDonald’s Four Ouncer?”

Yes, a quarter pound IS four ounces.

But somehow, a quarter pound sounds significantly larger than four ounces, because pounds are heavier than ounces.

Depending on your intent, you could market the same burger two ways:

  1. For our weight conscious friends, this popular burger is just four ounces. Dressed up with your favorite low-cal toppings, it packs a wallop! OR
  2. Our all-around best selling burger⏤a full quarter pound of choice meat⏤with all your favorite toppings!
  • One month free trial is perceptually longer than a 30-day free trial.
  • One hour feels longer than 60 minutes.

If I were to tell you my office is five thousand, two hundred and eighty feet north of town, you might, for just a moment, think you’d have to pack a lunch to get there. But if I told you instead that I am just one mile north of town, well, that’s an easy trip, isn’t it? Putting the rule and the psychology behind it to use, you could drive a customer or prospect away from a competitor and right to your door.

Think of The Generic Determination Rule as you are creating your next advertisement, menu, or sales pitch. First determine how you want your prospects or customers to perceive the extent, usefulness, or appropriateness of your product or service. Then choose the generic that matches your intent – bigger/smaller, faster/slower, farther/closer, shorter/longer.