By Orvel Ray Wilson, CSP

Picking the right words in your marketing materials and your sales presentation can be a challenge.  Think twice before using these terms and phrases in your marketing.

Words matter.   There is a big difference between telling your wife that she’s a “vision,” and telling her that she’s a “sight.”

Contract.  Good contracts are for well-meaning people with bad memories.  Even so, customers are frightened of “contracts.”  The term evokes nightmares of cell-phones and cable companies.  Refer to it as the “paperwork” or the “agreement” instead. 

Difficult or Complicated.  Life is challenging enough already.  Never describe your offering in these terms.  Always use “easy” or “simple.

Try.  “I’ll try” automatically presumes failure.  Tell your client or customer what you will do.

Help.  Unless you’re a doctor, nurse or therapist, avoid saying “we help our clients to” do whatever. 

Policy.  The phrase, “Sorry, it’s policy,” can turn a mild-mannered soccer mom into a raving lunatic.  Avoid it.  This is not an explanation.  It’s an excuse.  Always offer a compete rationale behind your rules and regulations.  “Guidelines” or “procedures” are much more palatable.

Obligation. For centuries in rural China, families have banded together to build a barn or repair a home after a fire or other disaster. And each family has a book, handed down through generations, that documents what they contributed in labor and material. These debts are as real as a bank note, and must eventually be repaid. If there is a quid-pro-quo, spell it out clearly.

Risk. People recognize the inherent risk in any purchase, and they want to minimize it. If you’re going to use this word, make sure it’s in the context of recognizing, and reducing the risk.

Robust.  What is “robust” software, anyway?  This over-used term is mostly meaningless.

Problem.  Call it a “challenge” instead.  Problems are bad.  Challenges are good.

Over/under.  “We’ve been in business for over 10 years.”  This is one of the most common misuses in the language.  You can fly over the rainbow or let the water go under the bridge, but if you can measure it, then use more than or less than.  If you can count them, the proper phrase is more than/fewer than.  Unless the number represents a boundary.  Now that my son is over 21, he drinks fewer than six beers a month.

Honestly/frankly.  Ok, so you’ve been lying up to this point?

On a daily basis.  This superfluous and bloated phrase has infected our language and crept into common use.  “Basis” is an accounting term that refers to the price paid for an asset, which you subtract from the selling price to determine the gain.  The correct use is “daily” or “monthly” or “hourly.”  I brush my teeth daily

That being said, . . . OK, OK! You said it already.  This transition phrase is the general equivalent of “but,” in that it discounts whatever precedes it. 

Orvel Ray Wilson, CSP is co-author of six books in the legendary Guerrilla Marketing series.  Since 1980, he’s been doing keynote speeches, conducting public seminars, private workshops, and consulting with clients around the world.  He specializes in helping people just like you get the edge they need to succeed in today’s hyper-competitive environment.   Learn more at  If you’d like to arrange a free 30-minute consultation over ZOOM, click here.

Choosing just the right words in your marketing is, as Mark Twain said, “the difference between “lightning” and a “lightning bug.”

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