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Poised to Perform: 7 Language Missteps to Avoid When Writing and Posting

Updated: Jun 23



We’re all guilty of social media faux pas. We’re inundated with so many so-called social media don’ts: sharing too many pictures of your kids; not sharing enough pictures of your kids; writing a status update that could be a text message; signing your name after you comment on a relative’s update (Looking at you, Aunt Jan.); and using Facebook as a reddit forum for your many complaints.

You may have your own strategies for wading through the sea of stay-at-home over-sharers and poorly written Facebook advertisements on your feed, but we’re betting certain messaging and calls-to-action drive you batty.

But how do you keep your own blog and updates from pushing your readers toward the social media pit of despair? Avoid words and phrases that alienate your audience.

If you work in social media content creation, keep this list of vocab to avoid handy.

Dated Acronyms

Acronyms à la 2015 are the equivalent of the old Taylor Swift right now. Dead. While “newer” acronyms pop up every day, such as RN for “right now,” or IDK for “I don’t know,” it’s important to ditch the old ones. LOL, YOLO, SMH, and JK are not going to come back to life any time soon, especially on platforms such as Snapchat or Instagram, which are increasingly popular with Gen Z. If you’re going to use acronyms, make sure they’re on brand for your company. You’re not likely to see a tech blog or insurance company urging its audience to peruse its GR8 products 2nte.

Guarantee

Let’s face it. You promise to call your grandma every day, but it’s not happening. So stop making promises you can’t keep; never guarantee anything to a consumer or purchaser. Not only is it a hollow promise, but it puts your brand integrity at risk. You can’t guarantee 100% happiness with any purchase, so don’t give consumers a reason to point fingers when they’re less than thrilled with results of their purchase. If you’re repping your own products, or yourself, don’t add fuel to your haters’ fire.

Check This Out!

Is there a call to action more tired than “Check this out”? Do you remember the last time you clicked on a Facebook advertisement that prompted you to “Check this out!”? No? Me neither. This CTA lacks specificity, and frankly, it’s lazy. If you’re writing social media ad copy, and use this phrase, you’re not doing your homework. Researching your brand should give you enough details to create a specific CTA that totes the benefits of your brand or highlights a certain product. Not only are more specific CTAs more timely and applicable to users, but they’re less boring. Less boring = an improved brand identity on social media, more clicks, better results.

Great/Best

Don’t let bad vocabulary get the BEST of you; say no to overused positive proclamations. If you’re pushing “great” or the “best” products, benefits, or blogs, you risk sounding not only over-confident, but you’re not really proving your worth as a content creator. You have infinite word combinations at your disposal, and so many ripe phrases that could better suit your message than “best” or “great.” Test drive a Thesaurus today.

Millennial

If you’re expanding a brand’s social media presence, trying to sell posh cuisine, or maybe pushing your travel blog, you may want to save the word “millennial” for the boardroom and keep it off your newsfeed. Making claims such as “millennials love” or “millennials hate” typically lumps your users into one identity, which doesn’t make them feel special. Nor does it demonstrate consideration for your audience. Millennials have the power to make or break a brand on social media, so be careful when making blanket claims about them. Besides, Gen Z might be the user group you want to attract.

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Adverbs.

“The adverb is not your friend.” I’ve never forgotten this sage advice from Stephen King’s memoir "On Writing." Adverbs don’t perform well in a call-to-action. For example, “immediately” does instill a sense of urgency, but it’s overused. Urging a user to click or buy immediately doesn’t typically work, because the word should be reserved for emergencies, not when you can’t think of a better way to incentivize users. Adverbs also rob you of your ability to use strong verbs, which are necessary when constructing a CTA.

Slang that doesn’t belong to you.

So you want to sound hip? As with acronyms, consider what’s hot and not for your brand image before committing to slang. If you’re selling air ducts, your crowd might be slightly different than those at a local coffee shop or shopping mall. Should you claim that your vent caps are Gucci? Or should you emphasize the quality of the product itself, using words that actually resonate with your target audiences?

Jargon

If you’re writing a blog for industry professionals, try to avoid terms that were coined ten years prior and have since lost their meaning. For example “synergy” may have been purposeful, even exciting in 2009, but has since lost any meaning due to overuse. Other meaningless phrases to consider: “Think outside the box,” “Win-win,” “bottom line.” These are abstract and vague, applied when one has nothing to say, but wants to encourage productivity or make a point in conversation.

There you have it. Do your best to eliminate the words no one wants to see on their newsfeed, opting to craft language that’s engaging and entertaining. High-performing content starts with strong source material, but solid syntax gives it power. The key to success is not to waste words, but to find the right ones.

-- by KT Heins

KT Heins is a Community Manager at Widefoc.us who specializes in technical writing. When she isn’t at the office, she is most likely hanging out with her Chiweenies, “working” on a novel, or freelance copywriting. Follow her on Instagram @ktotheheins for mountain views, cold brews, and fancy food.


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