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Here’s a common and prevalent copywriting error and mistake that will harm and even hurt your content. Whether you’re writing a blog post, web page, sell sheet or podcast, make this boo-boo and slip-up and your content quickly becomes ponderous, bloated and sluggish.thesaurus

Moreover, readers who encounter this issue are likely to reject and dismiss your content as unpalatable and distasteful, dense and complex, and lacking in cadence and rhythm.

Starting to get a feel for what this all-too-common copywriting misstep might be?

Let’s call it extraneous synonym syndrome (ESS). Or, from the Latin, thesaurus runamuckus.


ESS in Action

I was struck by the prevalence of ESS this week while watching a corporate video online. You could almost see the scriptwriter striving for a tone of importance, high-mindedness and inspiration. What comes across, instead, is content sounding poorly edited, meandering, and ultimately hollow.

Here are a few snippets from the approximately five-minute video. See if the ESS is as apparent (and grating) to you as it was to this listener:

  • “XYZ has dedicated itself in specializing to meet the stringent and demanding needs of the global medical community.
  • “The precision of such incredibly important and life-altering procedures…”
  • “…calls for a different or stand-apart performance level.”
  • “Come witness the power of precision manufacturing at its ultimate finest.”

Kind of makes one wish to stand apart — wearing the ultimate finest of ear plugs, no less.
 

Possible Cause. Recommended Cure.
We have political speechmaking to thank, in part, for the proliferation of ESS. Make note this fall as politicians pledge to protect America’s earnest and hard-working middle class, cut inefficient and wasteful spending, curb overreaching and intrusive government bureaucracy, and lower onerous and burdensome taxes.

Word to the content wise: Keep a wary eye — and, more important, ear — out for ESS. When you find it leaching into your content, do yourself and readers a favor. Stomp it out. Take every extraneous, back-to-back synonym and near synonym you can find and kick the least interesting one to the curb.

Readers will be thankful and appreciative you did.

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Footnote: David Meerman Scott and the talented folks at HubSpot have come up with a great tool, the Gobbledygook Grader, which lets you check and grade content for jargon-free reader friendliness. Not sure whether it scrubs for ESS. But even if not, it’s still a terrific tool.

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