2009 Banned Ad Words


On an article on entrepreneur.com, the author of Kick-Ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, Susan Guneliushas, complied a list of words that I should not use in my 2009 copywriting endeavors. 

  1. Free Can work well during an economic downturn, but consumers need to see the products perform well. Replace “free” with “complimentary” or “gratis” to sneak by spam filters without compromising the effectiveness of your message.
  2. Guarantee Few people believe in guarantees these days. Unless you can prove your guarantee is real, don’t use it.
  3. Really Stupid filler.
  4. Very Ditto #3.
  5. That Ditto #4.
  6. A Lot Does nothing to differentiate you from your competitors. Quantify it. If you offer 20 varieties of roses, say so.
  7. Opportunity You’re not helping anyone when you offer “opportunities” in your copy. Consumers don’t want opportunities, they want results.
  8. To Be (or Not To Be, For That Matter) Write your advertising and marketing messages in the active voice, not the passive voice.
  9. Synergy Clique.
  10. Drinkability Budweiser is already using “drinkability” in its ads. Seriously though, the point is valid–don’t copy your competition. Instead, differentiate your product and business with unique copy and messages that your target audience is likely to respond to.

Thanks for the ENG101 lesson, Susan. Shouldn’t we eliminate these words EVERY year? If we’re talking 2009, I would focus more on avoiding the overused political phrases and directly reminding consumers that we are in a recession/hard times/economic down turn. Good time to instill consumer confidence and brand loyalty by speaking TO them, and not throwing mindless sales pitches AT them.


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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