10 dollar words are the fancy words that you think make you look smart. You hope that by including a longer, more complicated word than you need, readers will go: “Oooh, sounds like she really knows her stuff!”
In reality, 10-dollar words make your copywriting suck.
I’m not suggesting that you should never use more than three syllables to communicate a concept. English is full of wonderful words that are a pleasure to say and see but if your reader has to spend even one extra second to translate your copy, you’ve lost the rhythm and you might just lose the reader.
Don’t spend 10-dollars on a 2 dollar job
Cutting out 10-dollar words from your copywriting doesn’t mean you have to dumb everything down but 10-dollar words are unnecessarily complicated.
If you botch up the execution you risk sounding pretentious. Unless that’s the tone you’re going for, communicate using simpler but more meaningful language.
Turn inflated into straightforward
Do you need to say cease when you could say stop? Or transportation when you mean lorries?
You might think you’re adding sparkle to your copywriting but, really, you’re just filling it with hot air.
Here are some of my favourite* 10-dollar words and the words I think they should be replaced with. *When I say favourite, I mean the ones that make me roll my eyes and sigh dramatically.
Disintermediation = cutting out the middleman
Heuristic = Formula or guide
Exacerbate = Aggravate/make worse
Agrestic = Rustic or handmade
Reintegration = Integration
Nomenclature = Language
My old boss would use nomenclature all. the. time… I love the word but he’d always look so damned pleased with himself! It was nauseating.
Some more common ones you will see (and use are):
Commence = Start
Terminate = End
Facilitate = Help
Utilise = Use
In the event of = If
Prior to = Before
At this point in time = Now
In excess of = More than
Purchase = Buy
Receive = Get
It almost every case, the more complicated version just isn’t needed.
One way to find these words? Read your copy aloud. They’ve got nowhere to run when you do that because they usually sound out of place. Or you sound pompous.
You may as well say “Wiffle Blah Pokem”
Overused words can be just as detrimental to your copywriting.
When you roll out some of those overused words and phrases, they can lack their intended meaning and add nothing to your copywriting. Some examples:
Authority, Characteristic, Commitment, Information, Intrinsic, Innovative, Operational, Procedure,
Provider, Relationship, Standards, Strategy, Scalable solution, Solution, System
Sometimes some of these are used in combination for extra points on ‘Management Speak Bingo’.
Do you leverage best practise, think outside the box or tap into a core competency?
(Furious eye stabbing.)
They fill the space but they don’t add anything concrete to your copywriting. You may as well say “Wiffle Blah Pokem”.
The challenge is that these words have become so ingrained that it’s harder to convince someone (a client) that they are B.S. Sometimes it’s even difficult for us to see a simpler version.
Your job is to turn these abstract phrases and concepts into tangible ideas using REAL WORDS.
So now it’s over to you. Which 10-dollar words do you hate seeing? Which ones are actually ok to use? I’d love to get your thoughts…
Belinda (AKA The Copy Detective)