5 Dangerously Ambiguous Words that Kill Your Persuasion Power

There are words that everyone uses…yes yes I use them too…and no, including a F*%king before the word does not redeem me.

You see them in New York Times and you see them on Buzzfeed and ohhhh you see them so much on Facebook, you want to take out your eyeballs and slow roast them along with a couple marshmallows.

You see people describing their pets using these words and you see them describing the efforts of Mother Teresa using the same words (does anyone else feel that’s disturbing?)

Their sex life is described using the same word

And their new carpet too.

And that is what is wrong with these words….

They are like beige wallpaper…

A wallpaper that no one notices….it doesn’t mean anything…doesn’t do anything…just stays there in its miserable beigeness…doing nothing but being beige…unnoticeable, unremarkable…invisible.

Not ugly, not pretty…just invisible.

What are those words? Behold the most commonly used ambiguous adjectives ever created:

  1. Awesome
  2. Fantastic
  3. Amazing
  4. Great
  5. Wonderful

Here’s a fun fact; do you know that the word Fantastic when used in Real Estate ads actually give the signal to potential buyers that they should bid low (reference: Freakonomics)

When I tested these words in my Language of Persuasion experiment, I saw similar results. I intuitively knew that these were not powerful words but I was using them out of sheer laziness and I told myself “they can’t possibly be doing any harm”…right?

WRONG!

These words hint that there is nothing worth mentioning in the subject being described…that you are eluding to its lack of substance when you use such an ambiguous adjective.

If it was “proven through years of research” or “backed by a rock-solid guarantee” or “the first choice of dentists across the country” or “hand-crafted by French virgins” you would not have to use the word “fantastic” to describe it.

So next time, you are tempted to refer to your offering or product or service or even to yourself as great or fantastic or awesome…do keep in mind that it doesn’t do NOTHING…in fact it does the opposite of great, fantastic and awesome….it makes your offer look lame.

6 Comments

  1. Christina on October 24, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Oh no! I use these words all the time. Your webinar cannot come quick enough. Save me from myself!!!

  2. Becky on November 6, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    YES! Thank you!
    I’ve long been trying to eradicate ‘amazing’. And I’m happy to add the rest to this list. I’m going to post alternatives over my desk for when I’m writing. Thanks for the kick in the pants to up my game, Bushra!

  3. Judyth Brown on March 11, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    Funny, whenever I need some eye candy filled click-baity content for one of my clients I add these words to a Google search.

  4. Dominique on April 26, 2016 at 7:36 am

    I am guilty as charged and yes, I’ve been lazy! Throwing these words in the bin from now on!

  5. Eve on January 17, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    English is not my first language, and it’s a great reminder not to take it easy and create something better than those five words. Guilty to use them all the time, will need to find some decent replacements :). Thank You, Bushra!

  6. Menellia Valcent on February 6, 2017 at 2:42 am

    oooo I should stop using the word Amazing then…

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