I used to have a strong interest in copywriting during college. The power of the pen to create, shape and take readers on a journey can be amazing.
However, when I visit web sites, get an e-mail, watch the news or read the paper I can't help but see certain words and phrases not just over-used, but misused. I don't think one blog post will inspire legions of PR, advertising and journalism professionals to stop this practice, however as a public service to all of the college students and up-and-coming PR/advertising/journalism/marketing folks I'd like to offer this list of Top 3 Words & Phrases to avoid. Feel free to add to this list.
1. "Hot". A product is not hot, unless you're describing its physical state. Here's an example of the proper use of "hot" in a sentence: I have to put a book under my iBook laptop because the battery becomes extremely hot. An event where papparazzi are fighting to take pictures of Paris Hilton is not "hot" - it's stupid. Or as those of us past watching MTV, it's "high school".
2. "Must have". Unless you're referring to water, clothing, sleep or shelter (and maybe sex), no product or service is a "must have". Proper use: I must have water or my organs will shut down and I will die. A rainbow scarf from J. Crew is NOT a "must have". A new mp3 player is also not a "must have", unless you're starring in a new movie about a guy who will die if his mp3 player stops playing. Wait, that was this absurd movie.
Side note: There was a funny sketch on SNL where Will Farrell and I believe Sarah Michelle Gellar (Side note II: For those who don't know, I don't really follow Hollywood or pop culture unless I'm forced to - actors, actresses, bands, etc come and go so frequently that I'd prefer to not waste my time memorizing every name that comes along... especially when 15 minutes later they're gone.) were on a game show where they had to pitch wacky movie ideas based on 3 Price is Right, Showcase Showdown wheels spinning random people, events, places and themes ("A bear attack, the Olsen twins and it's a buddy movie").
The pitch to create the movie Crank must have been a bad joke that was financed. I can hear the pitch now... (cue the dream sequence music)
"OK... Remember Speed? Where the bus has to go fast? Well, it's like Speed, where instead of a bus we have a GUY!"
Movie exec: "Ok, but how are we going to fit a bomb inside a guy? Maybe one of those tether collars like in 'The Running Man'?"
"We can make it a fictitious drug... and instead of MPH it's his adrenaline level that has to stay high or else he'll DIE!"
Movie exec: "Action!"
3. "It's the [insert emotion/descriptor here] [film/tv show/album] of the [insert season here]!". Maybe I'm just really cynical (loud gasp from the audience, followed by "NOOOOooooo...."), but I've managed to not see Jurassic Park and a handfull of other "classic" movies that have come out over the past 30 years and yet I don't feel like I've missed out on anything. I also don't own any Emo/Screamo band CDs, Korn albums or Limp Bizkit albums (see Hollywood/band side note above). And somehow my Summer/Fall/Winter/Spring have all been just fine without them. Go figure.
In fact, the whole "hot", "must have" and BS promotional gimmick has almost inspired me to start a "told ya so" blog of all of the crap that people latched onto that, when looking back, was completely ridiculous. I mean the 90's and garage rock stuff over the past 12-14 years alone would be enough fodder for a year's worth of posts. I'd start with Merry Go Round stores, move onto Milli Vanilli, then onto Richard Greico et al and Limp Bizkit ("Nookie" is possibly the dumbest song of all time, btw)... oh it could literally go on forever.