Even though I’m a tech copywriter by trade, I don’t spend my entire workday hammering out copy. A large part of my process is proper market research, which means I look at a lot of websites for tech brands, whether they’re a client of mine or not.
The deeper I get into this research, the more I start to recognize patterns in the ways tech companies talk about themselves. And, unfortunately, it’s quite common for these companies to copy rather than steal.
So, here’s 27 examples of copywriting clichés tech businesses need to delete from their websites in 2019.
Like X for Y. “My app is like Uber for homesick cats.” Comparisons frame a company against other companies or ideas, and restrict its ability to change. If you believe in what you do, you should be able to figure out a way to describe it in a way that stands alone.
Industry 4.0. A buzzword that has no real meaning, because those who coined it needed to backtrack and assign older “versions” to other points in history. If a visitor needs to a confusing Wikipedia page to understand your copy, you’ve lost your shot at creating an immediate emotional connection.
Innovate. Every business innovates, and the lasting ones succeed, even in the smallest amount possible. Being innovative is not a differentiator for your company.
Disruption/disruptive. A business can’t exist without disrupting other businesses. It’s the volume of disruption that makes things interesting. Plus, we already have a good word for this: “change.”
Bleeding edge. What, your business isn’t leading edge? What about cutting edge?
Next-generation. By the time you declare your business is next-generation, that actual next generation has already begun.
Better. We can do better than better. It means something different to everyone. Be more specific about the value your product provides, or your customer won’t know what you do well.
Delight. We’re not making ice cream here.
Actionable insights. Copywriters tell each other than our sentences need to be active. They should use verbs that create a sense of urgency and momentum. Insights are inherently actionable, and action is implied—no need to artificially insert an active quality.
Engage/engagement. Customers aren’t machines. We don’t engage. We read, respond, feel, and react.
Low-hanging fruit. This term implies that certain tasks are easy. That devalues the work and the people who do it, and encourages them to put less effort into doing it well.
Reimagined. Almost all work in the tech industry is derivative. Smartphones are derivative of what we now call “dumb” phones. Those are derivative of rotary phones, and so on.
Scale. Scalability has a specific meaning: “Scalability is the capability of a system, network, or process to handle a growing amount of work, or its potential to be enlarged to accommodate that growth.” (Thanks, Wikipedia!) It’s about increasing resources under extreme load and in turn seeing total output or performance increase. Unless your product helps a business minimize the risk of process failure as they grow, you’re not helping them scale. You’re helping them grow.
Thought leader. Someone who convinced an industry publication to post their guest post despite it being a poorly-researched, thinly-veiled advertisement.
Paradigm shift. See reimagined. Despite being derivative, an iPhone was a paradigm shift. A SaaS app probably isn’t.
Misfit/rebel. The gall of a company backed by hundreds of millions of VC cash considering itself, or anyone that works there, as an outside.
Curate. Curation is a careful, delicate, complicated job. This list is not curation.
Empower. Another example of forced activeness.
Platform. Unless a business puts a significant amount of their tech infrastructure/process into your business, you’re not a platform.
Artificial intelligence/machine learning/deep learning. It’s pretty trivial to hook into a machine learning API from IBM, Microsoft, or one of the other big players. Doing so does not mean your app is “powered by artificial intelligence.”
X made easy. If you made heart surgery easy, then, by all means, tout your product’s simplicity. Otherwise, I’ll remain skeptical about whether I can be productive using it.
X for humans/X for people. Who else would it be for? Tech businesses most often use this phrase for highly-technical processes that are now heavily automated or made inaccessible to “normal” people. You know, the same people who once controlled that same process before automation came into play.
X as a X. As in Software as a Service, Database as a Service, Device as a Service, a hundred other variations, or, gosh forbid, Anything as a Service (XaaS). If you fit into one of those categories, that’s one thing, but there’s no need to adopt the terminology of a specific industry or application when it doesn’t apply to you.
Beautifully simple. Redundant. Not everyone is a minimalist, after all.
The X way... There’s nothing wrong with saying “the simple way” or “the faster way,” but the construction is overused.
Reinvented. See reimagined. Very few products truly reinvent their industry.
Conversion. The proliferation of this term in tech business marketing feels problematic to me. It minimizes the visitor’s autonomy to make their own choices and erases the set of problems/pains/circumstances that brought them to your site and signup/purchase funnel. It’s important to remember that a business doesn’t exist to vacuum up as many customers as possible. It doesn’t succeed that way. A company grows through solving people’s problems. When a product claims to help a business “increase conversions,” I worry that both sides of the equation have lost the plot.
If you know you’ve used some of these tech copywriting clichés, don’t fret. Plenty of these clichés are taken straight from copy I’ve written in the past. I even found an “actionable” on this very blog.
We slide into these copywriting clichés because they give the appearance, through sheer volume of use, of being successful.
There are two takeaways here.
1. Let’s continue to be honest about the ways we write. Through critique and self-examination, we can become better at the art of writing, whether it’s a piece of fiction or a piece of web copy.
2. Let’s aim for clarity. Many of these phrases create unnecessary complexity in favor of sounding different. It’s not about using the fewest words possible. It’s about creating the clearest message possible.
What else would you add to the list? My inbox is waiting.