Have you ever read an email or a website page and couldn’t help but cringe? You might have been attracted to the product, but immediately lose interest after reading the copy. It happens, am I right?
If you’ve experienced this, you’ve encountered a ‘cliché’ copy. Something is cliché when it is too commonly said and used that it loses its meaning. And by common, I mean you’ve probably heard it a thousand times.
My favorite definition of ‘cliché’ is from Vocabulary.com:
“Cliche, also spelled cliché, is a 19th century borrowed word from the French which refers to a saying or expression that has been so overused that it has become boring and unoriginal.”
This is why we, as copywriters, should avoid using cliché phrases as much as possible. They are not only annoying and repetitive, but they will not help you achieve the goal of your copy. If users don’t take action, you’re not doing your job right…
But don’t feel embarrassed if you have used a cliché tagline at some point, we’ve all been there… Even big companies make the mistake of using cliché copy.
Take for example Jake’s Auto Repair’s tagline:
“Jake’s Auto Repair: Your Choice for Automotive Care”.
Okay, sure they might be trying to imply the good quality of their automotive products and services. But we see taglines like this everywhere!
“Your choice for skin care”
“Your choice for events”
It’s too commonly used that it becomes so boring and annoying to hear! And of course, it can’t 100% be everyone’s choice for automotive care, right?
What Cliché Copy Says About the Company
Messages that a company relays to their audience says a lot about them. Whatever they publish or put out for the public to see is tied with their image and their brand.
Always remember this:
“You are carrying the name of the company,”
Big, or even small corporations need to be careful with what the words they utter or write. Everything they say and do will imply something about their company.
Having a cliché tagline might not be a great idea in building a brand. Readers will always have an opinion on what they see, read, or hear. A cliché tagline might give them wrong ideas about the company you’re writing for and might even shows a lack of originality and creativity.
Or worse, your copy might look lazy and rushed…
Examples of Cliché Copy You Should Avoid
As a copywriter, you don’t want your audience to think that you are lazy and can’t think of anything else to say. You want to genuinely speak to them and tell them about your company through your copy. Simply slapping in a cliché tagline to save time and resources won’t cut it.
However, there are also instances wherein you don’t even realize you’re using a cliché. You might think it’s a great and effective copy.
No worries! It happens to everyone. Here are some tips on how you can spot and avoid cliché copy!
1. Lazy Adjectives
Judy Lee Dunn describes adjectives that “don’t add any meaning” to a word as “lazy adjectives”. These describing words might seem like they enhance the noun, but the truth is, they don’t. They are actually quite useless and don’t appeal to the reader.
Here are some of the most common lazy adjectives:
- Once in a lifetime
After reading through the list, you might find some of these adjectives appropriate or helpful, but they’re actually clichés. If you notice, a lot of taglines have these adjectives, but they don’t really need them. They don’t add any substance whatsoever to the point of the copy, therefore it’s best to just veer away from these lazy adjectives.
So, what adjectives are better to use?
When you feel as if your noun needs a little help, adjectives are always good to use — if you’re using the right ones.
In finding the perfect adjective for your copy, ask yourself if this describing word will help your reader better understand the point of what you want to say.
Keep in mind this question:
“If I include this adjective, will the reader be able to picture it? Hear it? Smell it? Touch it?”
Always make sure your adjectives will add substance to what you are saying. If not, then you don’t need them. Remember that your goal is to invoke emotion — or better yet, action.
2. The Unoriginal and Uninteresting
When a good song first comes out, we hear it everywhere. They play it in the mall, on the radio, in restaurants and ice cream shops—I mean everywhere! A lot would be fond of the song and enjoy hearing it all the time. Until one day, you realize it gets played way too often that it’s no longer that good.
Know the feeling? It’s the same thing with taglines and copy!
Surely, cliché copy started out as fantastic and effective. Whoever thought of it initially might have brought in big bucks for their company! Because it was so good, others started using it, and using it, until eventually, it didn’t work anymore…
People were no longer affected or amused by it.
Good copy is one that people will hear and the first thing to pop up in their minds is your company, your brand, or your products and services.
Here are examples of cliché taglines that have been used so much you can’t help but ask yourself “what do these even mean anymore?”:
- We go the extra mile.
- Discover the difference.
- The leader in…
- The next-generation…
- Celebrating…years of service.
- Making your dreams a reality.
- Competitive edge
- Grow your business.
- Identify barriers.
- Implement success strategies.
- Breakthrough technology
How many of these have you heard—or maybe even used? For me, a lot. You probably read them and rolled your eyes because they lack so much originality. Your audience will be doing the same thing if you re-use these phrases!
When you come up with a copy, take the time to evaluate it. Ask yourself this: “Does it convey your business’s uniqueness or does it sound just like everyone else?”
3. No Proof, No Power
Some taglines are also cliché because they are always used without proof or statistics to back them up. Usually, these are phrases which have too many claims about why their brand is the best. Take a look at these examples:
- Best Price
- Dealer pricing
- Giving 110 Percent
- Huge savings
- Nearly flawless
- Setting the standard
- Your (blank) needs.
- Highest quality
- Lowest price
- Next level
- Once in a lifetime
Do you see the trend in those phrases? They are all bold words that say “our products are the best” or “or company is the best choice”.
However, they all lack the same thing as well, and that is proof. Where are the numbers? Why should we take your word for it?
One of the things I learned in copywriting is that people nowadays want to see numbers, charts, and data before they believe you. They find it hard to take your words and consider them true without proof presented to them. This is mainly why cliché phrases that lack proof are no longer effective and useful.
4. The Word Hoarder
In taglines, the ideal practice is to keep it short. The shorter and more meaningful, the better.
Your goal should be for your audience to understand you and relate to you. Trying to impress them with deep and flowery words does not seem very relatable. Plus, it is prone to misinterpretation.
A company that talks to its audience as if they are on the same level and understanding catches the hearts of people. With this, it’s important to keep your language simple. Simple enough that even an elementary student can comprehend it.
Here are some cliché taglines that are often used by companies and substitute words that would be better to use instead:
|In the very near future||Soon|
|Hit the nail right on the head||Correct|
|On the same page||Agree|
|Outside the box||Differently|
|Quality of life||Well-being|
|The lion’s share||Most|
|The whole nine yards||Everything|
|Unconventional business practices||Lying/ Fraud|
Go forth and be original!
To help you turn a cliché into a creative headline, check out these cliché examples and their alternatives by Copyblogger:
- Cliché: It was an emotional scene.
- Original: It was a scene so sad that I had to look away. (long but not trite)
- Cliché: Our products sold like hotcakes!
- Original: We sold out the whole stock in just a week.
- Cliché: Lost hope? Don’t give up on life yet!
- Original: Ran out of reasons to live? We’ll give you one!
Now that we have gone through lists of cliché taglines to avoid, you have probably seen how most of them, we see or hear all the time. They have become so used that they lost their once present ability to attract audiences.
With these tips, you can start avoiding cliché phrases like these and come up with better, original ones to include in your copy!
Author: Chrizelle Anne So
Chrizelle is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Communication at De La Salle University. She works full-time as a Copywriter and Marketing Assistant in a renowned music and film agency in the Philippines. Chrizelle also works as a freelance copywriter in Copywriting Dojo.