Expert Q&A – build a buzzword-free language arsenal

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For the final Simply Smart Expert Q&A we had Daire Paddy talking to us about how to make your content stand out by building a buzzword-free language arsenal.

To start us off I want to play a little game of buzzword bingo. Think about those terms that are used so often they’ve lost all meaning. The ones that drive you mad. Hit me.

(Responses included: pretty much anything that ends in “preneur”. Authentic. Passionately. Soul driven. Skyrocket. Heart-centred. Soulfully aligned. Purpose driven. Coach. Consultant. Badass. Awesomeness.)

I think we can all agree that when you see something eleventy thousand times, it stops making an impact. So why are you doing it in your copy? Your writing should be infused with your personality. It should be striking. It should be everything BUT the same as everybody else’s. That’s the point of having a language arsenal in your back pocket.

Do you think it’s important to have a tagline?

I personally love a tagline. It just gives you extra space to be hilarious.

Do you use yours in your marketing?

I use it on things like my email signature, my social media cover images and at the top of my newsletters. I think it’s particularly useful to have a tagline if you use your name or a vague company name on everything. You need people to know what you do at a glance.

Do you have another word for authentic?

So when people ask me for other words to use, the first thing I always say is “define what you want to say”. What do you mean by “authentic”? Do you mean you do things your own way? Do you mean you’re honest? Do you mean you offer something one of a kind?

Brain dump everything you would use that word for, then hit the thesaurus for alternatives.

You should also remember that sometimes simplifying your vocab can create more of an impact than falling back on “industry” terms. For example, saying “be yourself” is more striking than saying “be authentic”.

What about being sweary? Is it a no-no?

Fuck no. I swear in my writing, but it’s because I swear in real life. When people read my stuff I want them to be all “yeah, that’s Daire’s”.

Obviously, you need to be sensitive to your audience. For example, if you’re creating video content for mums of toddlers, don’t swear. You don’t want to be responsible for their tiny people running around dropping F-bombs.

Despite my innately sweary nature, I would never swear in a client’s copy unless they specifically requested it. Remember that not everyone feels the way you do. And don’t stress out if you occasionally get a complaint about your language. I take the view of “if someone is put off by the occasional swear word, they really don’t want to be working with ME”.

How can I find my “voice” in writing? Other than looking at the thesaurus is there a magic way to sex up our copy and sound as awesome as we are?

Building up your own language arsenal is simply the only way to go. Picking words that work for you is the most effective way to infuse a bit of personality into your content.

Start by setting up a swipe file, a place to collect the things you love. This could be a nice new notebook or binder, or a clean Google doc, or (my personal fave) an Evernote notebook stack. This is the place where you want to stash any words or phrases that grab your attention, and also the words and phrases you want to avoid. (This will also be really helpful down the line if you ever want to outsource your copywriting)

Going on the hunt for language is not a whole lot of effort because it’s something you do along the way. We’re not scheduling hours at a time to read the dictionary, we’re just noticing words more, whenever we come across them. You can collect language fodder from TV shows, from books, from conversations… Remember, the words that resonate with YOU will also resonate with your audience. And using pop culture references to the things you love, is a nice subtle way to incorporate your personality into your writing. I tend to hide in my music so you’ll often see a song lyric or two creeping into my copy.

I’d also make a point of learning new words, instead of just using the same ones again and again. (This is something we often forget about once we’ve stopped the studies. The kindle app is really helpful for this – by holding your finger over a word, it will give you the definition – handy, right?

Word games are also a winner. Unite with a geeky friend or two and play the “word of the day” game. Open up your dictionary and drop your finger on the page. Copy down the definition of the word you land on, and challenge yourself to use that word at some point during the day. For the online edition, hit – they generate their own word of the day you can play with (this might be a good option if you’re likely to cheat and pick out a word you like more than the one you land on).

I’d also recommend Knoword and Freerice.

Adding your personal touch is really important because, for most of us, we ARE our business. Our audiences are there to connect with US, not a faceless entity. And guess what? They want a chat, not a lecture. Channeling that in your copy is not as difficult as it sounds. What are your fave words and phrases? One of mine is “effing” (not even the actual F word). I also use the following words A LOT: outrageous, raging, hoot, brie, muggle, tit, puppy power. If I bring those into my writing, it sure as hell won’t be sounding like anybody else!

If you’re sitting there thinking “but I don’t HAVE favourites”, that’s ok. I have a few tricks to help you out.

  • ask a loved one to do an impression of you – chances are they’ll capture your colloquialisms and mannerisms pretty damn well!
  • thumb through your old journals (or watch your old live streams), and make a note of the things you say over and over again
  • instead of writing your copy from scratch, record yourself talking on the topic then have it transcribed. Sure, you’ll need to edit before you publish, but your language quirks will already be in there.

The topic of writing as you speak is a contentious one, but do you see how there are ways to add a bit more of “you” with it being a total mess?

Are there any major content faux pas?

Well, in my opinion, YES, because I’m picky. But I think the best response to this question is to say you need to set your own boundaries. You need to figure out what you want, and also what you’re comfortable with and stick to that. For example, some people love this trend of incorporating personal anecdotes into everything, some people are just so over it. Is there a right choice? No. Just opt for whichever doesn’t make you want to stick a knitting needle in your ear. (For my personal no-nos – read this.)

Extra resources:

How to make your copy killer

The writer’s toolkit

Content quickies – sex up your blog in 10 minutes or less

daire - language arsenal q&aDaire (and before you even ask, that’s pronounced DARA).

Is a creator of online content and all round ideas girl, which means she takes your thoughts and turns them into meaningful copy that (wait for it) actually sounds like you. And when those thoughts aren’t so forthcoming? Well, she can help you with that too.

For more information on Daire, her services and her wacky word-weaving ways, check out:

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