If that headline grabs your attention, you really need to read the rest of this article.
Why? Because when you’re writing about your new idea, you want people to read it. And the above sentence contains three words which are so dull, so meaningless and so obvious they practically defy readers to keep reading.
The words (if you haven’t guessed): Quality, Strive and Utilize. I’ll disembowel them one at a time, in reverse order.
Utilize is just a fancy way of saying “use.” There’s no difference between these sentences:
Acme uses stainless steel widgets in its thingamabobs.
Acme utilizes stainless steel widgets in its thingamabobs.
People write “utilize” instead of “use” because they think it sounds more professional or scientific. It doesn’t. It sounds like a high school lab report. But the real problem is that “use” itself is numbingly generic. Instead of “use,” try writing some words that convey an actual action or emotion:
Acme forges its thingamabobs from stainless steel widgets.
Acme demands stainless steel widgets for its thingamabobs.
Strive is a more pretentious version of “try.” People write it when they want readers to believe they intend to try really, really hard:
At Acme, we strive to build the world’s best thingamabobs.
That sentence makes me picture teams of sweaty middle managers straining against ropes in their struggle to avoid creating mediocre thingamabobs. Strive! Strive!
But, like Yoda says, “There is no ‘try.’ There is only ‘do’ or ‘not do.’” Why not just write:
At Acme, we build the world’s best thingamabobs.
No trying, no striving, no uncertainty. And no sweaty, straining middle managers.
Quality is the most meaningless word in the history of marketing. People write it because they think they need an adjective to reassure customers their offering isn’t complete crap:
Acme builds quality thingamabobs.
Whenever a client tells me he offers “quality” this or “quality” that, I ask what he means. Then I substitute his answer for the dreaded Q-word:
strong durable high-performance fresh hand-crafted custom-built precise enriched flawless polished flexible dependable quiet rugged brilliant
You get the idea. Write one of those words instead of “quality,” and you’re not only substituting meaningful for meaningless. You’re also boosting the chances that a vivid, unexpected word might just catch readers’ attention and get them to—yes!—keep reading.