Slim Down Advertising Headlines

Avoiding the Most Overused Words in Advertising Headlines

In January 23, 2014
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It’s a new year – the time for making (and usually breaking) resolutions. You know the ones: Exercise more. Eat less. Tighten up. Slim down. For us copywriters, now might be a good time to try writing tighter and slimming down those headlines. Let’s feel the burn, shed the flab and, in doing so, increase the strength of our leading lines.

We recently offered up some great tips for improving your writing. A specific exercise to help you become more efficient with headline copy is to avoid words that get overused in advertising headlines. Before we begin these copy calisthenics, I must admit that I have personally used all of these words in headlines at one point or another. We all have “cheat days,” am I right?

Amazing et al.

When crafting a headline, it’s always tempting to add non-essential descriptors. Think of them like the donuts of the written word. They satisfy our desire to embellish our statement, but are all empty calories. Words like “incredible”, “awesome”, “amazing” or “unbelievable”. These words have been used to the point of exhaustion in advertising. Just look at any grocery store circular and you’ll see what I mean. Even words like “sensational” don’t carry much meaning after being applied to savings on peas and Prego.

Hy-Vee Circular

New and Different

Audiences are bombarded with messages about new and different products nearly every hour of every day. Personally, I think telling people something is new or different isn’t enough to captivate them anymore. We should be exploring new ways of communicating that this is something your target hasn’t seen before – and no, I’m not talking about a starburst.

Side note: There are people who distinctly disagree with this and maintain that “new” is one of the most powerful words in advertising, citing that “it’s a very powerful word that you will see in advertisements and promotions on a daily, if not hourly, basis.” Which is exactly why I’d argue that it is overused.

Too Many Fillers

Less is usually more when it comes to attention-grabbing headlines. Just look at this Volkswagen ad, arguably one of the most famous in a long line of highly-regarded print ads from the carmaker. They could’ve said “this car is a lemon” or even “it’s a lemon”. Instead, this:

Volkswagen Lemon Ad

Or this ad, in which the headline (and its clever placement) is the big idea. Three simple, conversational words – but undeniably attention-getting.

Hakle See you Later Ad

The next time you set out to write a headline, see how many words you can cut out of your first draft without losing or altering the idea. You’d be surprised to see how much flab you can eliminate from your advertising headlines while communicating the exact same thing.

Rick Riley

Mom always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to blog, don’t blog anything at all.” Okay, that’s not true. In fact, mom never read a single blog, nice or otherwise. But it’s still good advice. So look to me for nice … or at least interesting, relevant or funny. Well, maybe smartass or irreverent or sarcastic, too. But that’s it. If it doesn’t fall into one of those categories, you didn’t hear it from me.