I wonder how many of your former English teachers are on Facebook, internally cringing at the preponderance of “vague-booking” or the posting of extremely general statuses.
Vague-booking statuses are filled with the words that your English teacher warned you about. The ones that are so general that the average friend on your list has no idea if you are talking about them or not.
Even though you probably don’t vague-book like the masters, chances are you still use words that convey uncertainty or are so vague that your meaning is entirely lost.
You don’t want to sound like Margaret, who is, “wondering if people even care” just four minutes ago.
Who? Care about what? In your content you need to be precise, which means steering clear of words that will eliminate the meaning.
Your audience doesn’t want wishy-washy, maybe-type thing content.
They want the answers you’ve promised to provide.
Which is why in this piece, I have gathered the words that make you sound less like a thought leader and more like a desperate, attention-seeker on the internet.
Using precise nouns is critical to creating content that is specific and clear. Using precise words instead of the ones below will transform your content.
I catch myself using “people” sometimes when I really mean a very specific sort of people. When you just use “people” in your content, you always have a very specific demographic in mind. Say it. If you’re talking about the people that read your content, use words like readers or audience. If you’re talking about someone using your app, then call them users.
People could mean anyone, anywhere. That’s not who you are talking about in your content, so make it clear. Your writing will benefit from it.
Your English teacher told you to avoid these words, so why are you still doing it?
“This is one of the things that will make your content better.”
“This is the one of the steps that you can take to make your content better.”
Which is stronger? Which tells you more?
The problem with wishy-washy words like thing or something is that these words are not furthering your message. They don’t give you any more detail than before you wrote them. Sentences containing this type of word are some of the first to get cut in an article, because they often say so little.
Obviously there are times when you need conditional verbs, like “could.” But before you go using it in your content, remember how little you say when every word you write is conditional. There is an article in the New York Times from 2014, where the author writes about hedge words (like kind of, sort of, could) and how they are pervading our language. He says that they are evolving into verbal tics. Even when we want to be clear, we find it hard.
Just be confident about some things, or all things! Wishy-washy content is the result of uncertain language, which MIGHT undermine your credibility. It COULD make it harder for people to put their trust in you. Isn’t that the point of content? To make people trust you? We’ve become unsure about being sure, afraid of seeming too cocky.
In order to be an authority on something, you need to be confident and clear. Thought leaders don’t say,
“Something that might change history.”
“This event will change history.”
I was reading this thread on Reddit a while back, which in a roundabout way was probably the inspiration for this post. It said to remove the words “just” and “really” from your language and you will instantly sound more credible and assertive.
“I’m just trying to move out of here.”
Sounds less strong than.
“I’m trying to move out of here.”
When you start examining our language, you start to see how uncertain we’ve become. No one is sure about anything, except the people who are confident enough to be sure about everything. And honestly, there is a time and place to sound a bit uncertain, but it should never be constant. Sprinkle in a dash of uncertainty when you want to soften a blow or sound a bit humbler.
But generally, the less confident you sound, the less confident your audience will be in your authority. Keep this in mind as you develop content and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a thought leader.
What other words convey uncertainty? What words do you catch yourself using that will weaken your argument? Let us know in the comments section.