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Don't Kill Your Impact Words!
Shel Horowitz, Marketing Consultant - Going Beyond Sustainability Shel Horowitz, Marketing Consultant - Going Beyond Sustainability
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Springfield, MA
Sunday, June 11, 2023


The right word, used too often, is like a drug overdose

We all know how dangerous a drug overdose is. A particular drug maybe terrific in the right quantities for healing and illness, but too much can be fatal.

But did you know the same thing can be true for overused words?

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I just read an email promoting a workshop with a product naming expert. The writer used the word "moniker" 9 times in a 372-word promo. For me, the first use (in the name of the workshop) was absolutely appropriate. The second felt like an interruption, and each subsequent use felt more intrusive, especially when the word appeared in four out of five consecutive bullets. Maybe this writer was trying to make a point by hammering us with this somewhat unusual word. But to me, the message was "I am so thrilled with this word that I'm going to just keep getting you over the head with it." Well it wasn't fatal, it was definitely an overdose. It lowered my respect for this writer and built up my resistance to the word.

I hope it doesn't cause me to think less of the next writer who uses the word once, appropriately--because of the bad association this one writer created.

And the word is so specific that Thesaurus.com only lists eight synonyms, including equally odd ones like "appellation" and "sobriquet" along with some actually usable ones like "tag" and "label." But "name" has 43 choices, with several others at "names" and "naming."

In fairness, most of the words that turned up would not be the right word in this promo. If I'd written the piece, I might have relied heavily on the unobtrusive "name" and "product name," with occasional sprinkles of "brand" and "label," maybe even "tag" or"term." Yeah, and I might use "moniker"--but only once. "Sobriquet" would not make it into my draft.

This was an extreme example because of the concentration in such a small space. But even if I am reading a book of several hundred pages, unusual words will annoy me if they are repeated too often. It is much better to use the common word, in this case name, or perhaps product name, than to make the reader feel like they are walking on sharp objects barefoot. You don't want to bleed them to death, after all.

But don't make the opposite mistake of using a different highly self-conscious word every time you need a synonym. That is almost as intrusive. Use words that flow naturally and sound like human speech.

So, when you are reading over your drafts, look for repetitions that call too much attention to themselves and not enough to what they are talking about. It takes 30 seconds with the thesaurus in your word processor or on the web to find good substitutes. And save the words that call attention to themselves for the times you really want to call attention to something in your text. Use those words with grace, power, and subtlety.

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News Media Interview Contact
Name: Shel Horowitz
Title: Marketing Consultant/Copywriter/Author
Group: GoingBeyondSustainability.com
Dateline: Hadley, MA United States
Direct Phone: 413-586-2388
Main Phone: 413-586-2388
Cell Phone: 413-512-0165
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