63 Empty Business Writing Cliches to Avoid

Contrary to popular belief, using business cliches in your writing isn’t always a bad thing. The definition of a cliche is “a trite or overused expression or idea,” but sometimes those terms and sayings are overused for a reason: because they work. Advertising works best when it’s able to transmit a wealth of information and meaning with a single phrase, even if that phrase happens to be a bit cliched. Saying a lot with a little is important in business writing, and cliches are one tool that can help you do that.

They become a problem, however, when they’re so overused that they end up losing all meaning. Once you hear something so many times, it starts to become empty white noise; certain words and phrases simply stop showing up on your mental radar. Avoiding the worst of the worst cliches helps your marketing to stay fresh, contemporary and meaningful. With that in mind, here are some examples of the most troublesome offenders.

The worst of the worst business cliches

  1. “Rock stars”

    Rock Star Cliche Example
    The business world is chock full of self-proclaimed “rock stars” right now: marketing rock stars, graphic design rock stars, maybe even one or two financial advising rock stars. But we can’t all be rock stars, or else none of us are. This is the copywriting equivalent of that middle-aged guy who still wears his high school varsity jacket. It makes you sound more desperate than cool, and it’s just plain overused.

  2. “One stop shop”

    One Stop Shop Cliche Example
    Whether your business is a “one stop shop,” a “one stop service” or even offers multiple resources “under one roof,” these cliches make your company sound unspecialized and unremarkable. If your company is versatile, agile and multifaceted, there are much more creative ways of saying that than “one stop shop.”

  3. “Integrated solutions”

    Integrated Solutions Cliche Example
    There’s nothing inherently wrong with using a business buzzword from time to time. If your business offers “solutions,” it’s perfectly fine to use that word. But once you start stringing multiple buzzwords together (“Our paradigm offers integrated solutions to boost your ROI”), it just starts to sound like meaningless jargon.

  4. “Synergy”

    Synergy Cliche Example
    Synergy is a meaningful and useful concept in business, but it’s been overused so much in the corporate world that it’s practically a punchline. It may have been relevant once, but nowadays, it’s the sort of word you hear used in comedy films or TV shows by caricatures of self-important, out-of-touch business managers. Use the cliche carelessly, and your audience is unlikely to take you very seriously.

  5. “Perfection”

    Perfection Cliche Example
    Perfection is a pretty bold claim to make, and one that you’re not likely to live up to. Few potential customers will believe that you actually are the “perfect real estate agency” or the “perfect pet shop.” In fact, audiences are far more likely to simply tune these business cliches out.

  6. “Highest quality” or “lowest price”

    Highest Quality/Lowest Price Cliche Example
    There’s no shame in showing off your best selling point, and for many companies, that’s the quality of their products or the prices they offer. But it often seems like everyone says they’ve got the “highest” or “lowest” of something, and that’s just not mathematically possible. Avoid broad generalizations and be specific about your product or service’s value by using numbers and hard evidence.

  7. “Next level”

    Next Level Cliche Example
    What does the “next level” look like? How do you know when you’ve reached it? The average person doesn’t think of their day-to-day life in terms of “levels,” so advertising that a company will take you to the “next level” is awfully ambiguous.

  8. “Once in a lifetime”

    Once in a Lifetime Cliche Example
    Few things actually do happen “once in a lifetime,” and your discount or offer probably isn’t one of them. More to the point, this isn’t a provable statement; or rather, to prove it, your audience would first have to live out the rest of their life, making this a rather empty claim.

  9. “Conveniently located”

    Conveniently Located Cliche Example
    That’s an awfully big assumption, especially if you don’t necessarily know where the audience lives or works. Don’t make your customers Google this information themselves, and if you’re going to give any indication of where you’re located, don’t use phrases like “right around the corner.” Instead, be specific and let people judge for themselves whether or not it’s “convenient” for them.

  10. “The future of _____” or “Tomorrow’s _____, today”

    Future Cliche Example
    Unless you’re actually a trusted futurist or a psychic, you probably can’t actually predict things that haven’t happened yet. This phrase is so overused that it’s hemorrhaged most of its meaning. “The future of estate planning” or “Tomorrow’s media, today” won’t convince many people that what you’re providing is actually futuristic.

  11. “Best service” or “full service”

    Best Service/Full Service Cliche Example
    “Best service” is a pretty vague thing to say. What exactly is it about your company’s service that makes it the best? “Full service,” meanwhile, just seems needlessly redundant and doesn’t make you sound especially unique. It’s not like there are many places out there who can only do half of the things asked of them. Instead, be specific about what your business does and offer evidence that shows why you do it best.

  12. “Results oriented”

    Results Oriented Cliche Example
    This kind of goes without saying, doesn’t it? Why would anyone even bother with you if you weren’t concerned with results? People often use this phrase to describe themselves, but it usually just makes them sound like they have no unique qualities to speak of.

More advertising cliches to avoid

  • “Win-win”
  • “As seen on TV”
  • “Robust”
  • “Leading provider”
  • “Largest selection”
  • “Worldwide”
  • “Leading”
  • “The best kept secret in _____”
  • “You’ve tried the rest, now try the best”
  • “Discover the difference”
  • “Professional”
  • “For all your _____ needs”
  • “Solution provider”
  • “Feature rich”
  • “Added value”
  • “Solution driven”
  • “Attention to detail”
  • “Best practices”
  • “World class”
  • “Best in class”
  • “Strong track record”
  • “Prompt service”
  • “We go the extra mile”
  • “Tailor made”
  • “Core competency”
  • “Quality workmanship”
  • “End-to-end”
  • “Home of the ____”
  • “Celebrating ____ years of service”
  • “Locally owned and operated”
  • “Convenient parking”
  • “Real time”
  • “Easy to use”
  • “Employee pricing”
  • “Huge savings”
  • “Blowout”
  • “Prices too low to advertise”
  • “Take advantage of ____”
  • “Last chance”
  • “For a limited time only”
  • “Time for a change”
  • “Committed to”
  • “Up and coming”
  • “Cutting edge”
  • “Think outside the box”
  • “State of the art”
  • “Next generation”
  • “Forward-thinking”
  • “Innovative”
  • “Thought leader”
  • “Ninja”

Conclusion

There’s nothing wrong with using a phrase that’s been proven to get results, even if it’s a phrase that’s been used before. When you do use business writing cliches, make sure you’re using them because they’re the best possible way to communicate with your audience—not because you’re being lazy.

Can you think of more common business cliches that need to be laid to rest? Please leave your ideas and other thoughts in the comments below!

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63 Empty Business Writing Cliches to Avoid

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Posted in Copywriting

20 Responses to “63 Empty Business Writing Cliches to Avoid”

  • As content marketing becomes more and more prevalent, so does the urge to use such cliches. Thank you for making such a great list and pushing us all to write content that is specific and creative!

  • Thank you James.

    I’d like to add to the list, “Expect to exceed your expectations.” Whenever I hear or see it, my gag reflex kicks in.

    I believe the warmest and fuzziest language of effective business writing are cold hard facts.

  • copyjock says:

    For laziness and cliches, there’s one tag line that has infected car advertising on TV and that’s, “Our best (name of car) ever.” Let’s give that a, “Duh!” I’ve heard that on BMW, Nissan, Chevy Malibu and other commercials.

    Of course the newest and latest is going to be the best, except maybe for the current line of BMWs which have gotten weak reviews in the car mags. So Mr. and Miss and Mrs Copywriter, can’t you find a less obvious tag line cliche? And yes, I’ve written automobile commercials. So there.

  • Hal Bowles says:

    I once worked on a sales promotion for a very large tire manufacturer in which they wanted us to highlight their “blowout” prices. I kid you not. To make matters worse, this wasn’t too long after the Firestone/Ford Explorer blowout tire incidents. Fortunately (or unfortunately for the sake of sheer folly), we ignored their directive and went another direction.

  • Richard wilson says:

    This is awesome and so unbelievably true. But it extends to other industries like sales!

    These phrases aren’t only cliche, but they raise red flags to someone getting pitched. People won’t go near something too “salesy.”

  • “…to name a few” is another tired, overused phrase that (in my estimation) kills the profession just a little, every time it’s used. It’s a meaningless placeholder used to fill time when there is nothing else relevant to say. “…to name a few” represents a severe lack of imagination. Worse: it’s lazy writing.

  • Kerry Cox says:

    You get all this, and much, much more…
    Revolutionary…
    Irresistible…
    You’re gonna love…
    Don’t settle for less…

  • Rob Wright says:

    I’d like to add ‘lifetime guarantee.’ Not only is used a lot, it is completely meaningless. If you buy a toaster and it blows up after a week, then that was the lifetime of your toaster. I once had a client who thought it referred to the lifespan of the customer! Whatever it is supposed to mean, it will never stand up in court.

  • Josh Mc says:

    What I think is interesting about cliche’s, is the way they are sometimes ingrained into people’s ways of communicating because there is no other, better way of saying something.

    For example, “We really will go that ‘extra mile’ for you”, compared to; “We will put in an extra amount of effort on top of what you would expect us to”. It can be pretty tricky to avoid a cliche, especially in sales, as Richard said above.

    I think a way to avoid a cliche sounding over-used, is to not use it unless you’re actually sincere about what it means. Customers can be especially good at picking up insincere selling points.

  • Goran says:

    Hahaha, great observations and hopefully an eye opener for some of the stubborn customers out there.

  • Judy Bean says:

    “Customer-focused,” “commitment to excellence,” and “quality” as an adjective.

  • Dawn says:

    Many of these were in old clip-art books my Dad had back in the 60′s. Funny!

  • Gary says:

    Great list! My particular pet peeve is the phrase, “custom-designed to your specific needs,” when talking about an off-the-shelf or mass-produced product.

  • Patty says:

    Please add “made easy” to this list. It’s maddening! Thanks!

  • How about the ubiquitous “Going Forward…” (as opposed to downward, sideways or reverse I assume?) and “World-class” typically dredged up to disguise a product, service or company that’s third-class at best.

  • Johnathan says:

    I’d add the word “Premium” to that list. I’ve seen items such as cooking oil and chocolate wafers being called “Premium”.

  • Jeffrey Hedquist says:

    Good article! I’ve made a collection of cliches to help my broadcasting clients avoid them. To get your very own free copy of “Hedquist’s List of 275 Cliches,” email jeffrey@hedquist.com and I’ll send them. Guaranteed to reduce commercial effectiveness.


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