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11 ‘Branded Buzzwords’ We Should Retire in 2013

by Abby Kerr

in Uncategorized

About this column

‘Branded’ buzzwords. You’ve seen them, heard them, read them everywhere.

Especially on the websites of coaching brands, “personality” brands, and wellness or self improvement-focused brands.


As a brand voice specialist, I read a lot of copy from values-based microbusiness owners

people trying to do good work, from the heart, and market it via an online platform. I write a lot of copy. And (now, under The Voice Bureau) I direct a lot of copy to be written. My work life (and my personal life) are saturated in language. It’s the mode that I move in and groove in.

Just as a good doctor prides herself on staying ‘up’ on modern medicine, and a good hairstylist takes continuing education to learn how to do tresses à la mode of the day, a good branding and copywriting specialist keeps her ear to the ground for language and stylistic trends. She knows which words are worn out, which words are gaining velocity, and (often) who used a phrase in the first place, who co-opted it from there, and how it thence snowballed into a linguistic phenomenon in our tiny subculture of the internet.

After polling our friends on Facebook, I was convinced to go ahead and run this post on the beloved-of-microbiz words whose star has risen — and imploded.

I admit: I have used some of these words in my own clients’ copy (mostly by request, I should add) and at different points, in my own copy, so for every finger I’m pointing out there, I assure you there are even more fingers (of my own) pointing back at me.

I mean this post not to be a diss, a razz, a rag, a harangue, a call-out, or a slam. That’s not my style. (Low Audacity value, anyone? Thesaurus Club, anyone?)

Rather, as someone who desires to lead by example in the values-based online microbusiness webiverse, I think it’s time to say what a lot of us are already thinking.

Here are 11 ‘buzzwords’ we should each personally consider retiring from our business brands in 2013.

1. Juicy. This word means . . . what, to you? Exciting? Stimulating? Rah-rah? Laden with unusual adjectives? If you know what you mean by ‘juicy,’ please use that word instead — especially if you’re instructing a creative professional to make a design or a page of copy ‘more juicy’. And if you don’t know what you mean by ‘juicy,’ then please use another word.

Caveat: Consider keeping ‘juicy’ in your brand language if you have a high Enthusiasm value. But realize how played out it is.

2. Soulful. What, exactly, does ‘soulful’ really mean? Is it a bougie take on ‘woo-woo’? Does it mean committed to a spiritual practice? Does it mean having a high Intimacy or Transparency value?

Caveat: Consider keeping ‘soulful’ in your brand language if you have a high Intimacy value.

3. Woo-woo. Let’s stop apologizing for being rooted in the spiritual, if we’re rooted in the spiritual, by calling it ‘woo-woo.’ Why denigrate something you truly believe in?

Caveat: Consider keeping ‘woo-woo’ in your brand language if you have a high Intimacy or Depth value. And only if you’re talking about how your Wrong People might see your high value on spirituality.

4. Savvy. I have used and abused this word in my copywriting past. In fact, I probably have this word a few places on my own site right now. And I’m seeing ‘savvy’ everywhere these days. Everybody’s Right People are ‘savvy.’ Everybody’s methodology is ‘savvy.’ I’m committing to really asking myself now, every time I feel tempted to select this word over a more precise alternative: Is savvy the word I actually mean? And if I think I do mean savvy, then savvy about what? I encourage you to ask the same questions of yourself.

Caveat: Consider keeping ‘savvy’ in your brand language if you have a high Excellence or Clarity value.

5. Telejam. The first person I ever heard use this catchy moniker was Danielle LaPorte, and since then, everybody and her sister is having one instead of a live call, a virtual class, or (God forbid) a teleseminar. I’m not against spicing the name up, but there are other options out there. (And not all Voice Values ‘jam’ and jam alike, you know. Some of us ‘chat,’ ‘riff,’ call people to the ‘playground,’ or invite people to a salon.

Caveat: Consider keeping ‘telejam’ in your brand language if you’re Danielle LaPorte. Everybody else, get your own phraseologie.

6. Whatevs-preneur. God bless the ‘preneurs. Have you noticed how everybody is adding ‘preneur to everything these days? Now in addition to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, there are femmepreneurs, mompreneurs, digipreneurs, writerpreneurs. I won’t go on in case I offend someone dear to me. (I truly hope that isn’t the case.) But I’m thinking that the YOUR TOPIC AREA HERE-preneur wave has crested. Maybe not.

Caveat: Consider keeping ‘-preneur in your brand language if you’ve been using it for a while and have an established brand conversation around it, or a tribe who strongly identifies with it. If you’re new to the scene and wondering what to call yourself or your prospective clients, please look elsewhere.

7. Epic. Very few things in life are truly epic. Saving people from fires. Running a marathon as an amputee. These things are epic. I’ll put myself out there and say that launching an e-book on the internet is NOT epic. Using this word freely to describe your latest weekend adventure feels a bit grandiose, no?

Caveat: Consider keeping ‘epic’ in your brand language if you have a high Power or Audacity value.

8. Make it pop. When I hear this line, I imagine scantily clad women cavorting in a rap video. (And I like rap.) How, exactly, do you make a sentence pop? Or make your money savvy pop? (See the suggestions for ‘juicy,’ above.)

Caveat: Consider keeping ‘make it pop’ in your brand language if . . . nah.

9. Hustle. Oh, the hustling. It’s not for all of us. Hustling implies a motivation, a momentum, and a mindset that is not for everybody. And I’m seeing people with Voice Values at the other end of the spectrum from the hustlerific using this word with abandon. It just doesn’t quite land.

Caveat: Consider keeping ‘hustle’ in your brand language if you have a high Audacity value.

10. Authentic. Another word that makes us go hmm. Like ‘juicy,’ ‘soulful,’ ‘savvy,’ and ‘make it pop,’ above, ‘authentic’ doesn’t quite mean anything, does it? Does it simply mean not fake? Better to tell your readers what you’re committed to being authentic about. I purposely didn’t include ‘authenticity’ as one of the 16 Voice Values because all Voice Values have the capacity to be strongly authentic, each in their own way. If you hear one thing in this post, please hear this: no one style of communication holds the patent on authenticity. There’s lots of room for all of us in this conversation about life and business and what really matters.

Caveat: Consider keeping ‘authentic’ in your brand language if you have a high Transparency value.

11. Badass. I admit to a fondness for this one, because it’s so far from anything I’d ever use to describe my own brand and the way I communicate. (You’ll recall my low Audacity value.) But the problem is, I’m seeing this everywhere. Who comes to my mind first when I hear the word? Justine Musk. Surely she’s not the first person to use this in her personal brand, but her use of it fits because it aligns with her Voice Values. See below if you’re wondering whether it could work for you, too.

Caveat: Consider keeping ‘badass’ in your brand language if you have a high Audacity value.

You know your top Voice Values, right? If not, we’d love for you to assess yourself for free. Access our complementary diagnostic by entering your email in the box below and clicking Go:

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

What words or phrases do you wish would retire in 2013? Put ’em in the comments below.

{ 97 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Wilkinson January 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm

You are such a gentle power, Abby. You can smack ’em down and they walk away thanking you. Such a gift.

Love the list. I nodded my head a lot and then I went and checked my copywriting file. (Whew. I passed!) I know there are actually a lot more I’d like to see retired, but can’t think of them now. But I know how they make me feel–precisely like they are not authentic, like someone is wearing someone else’s persona, though because I don’t read all around that much, I don’t actually know who’s face I’m talking too. It makes me wary. And weary after a while. (I’ve unsubscribed from brands that stopped feeling true to me for this very reason, some of them quite popular.)

Thank GOD that juicy was #1. I almost always hate the way that’s used. You better be extremely charming and believably, oh, I dunno, almost hyper, for me to buy that one. And cute. And suuuuuupppppperrrr enthusiastic.


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:29 am

You are such a gentle power, Abby. You can smack ‘em down and they walk away thanking you. Such a gift.

It’s scary how often I hear this. When I was interviewing for my second job out of grad school, my teaching partner at my first job out of grad school told the interviewer (about me): “Abby does not suffer a fool.”

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head as to why these words and phrases don’t “land” when they’re tacked on to a brand conversation, rather than originating from somewhere — ahem — authentic. It’s because we can’t tell if we’re talking to the actual person or just her persona.

And yes — the juice has run its course, I’m afraid, across all the niches. (Please God, let it be so.)


Susan Wilkinson January 22, 2013 at 10:42 am

I’ve heard the “doesn’t suffer fools gladly” comment a lot in my life too… just not in conjunction with “gentle.” You seem more naturally concerned with others’ feelings than me. I say this to your credit.

Read the comments… greatly entertaining and I’m so glad you chose to go ahead with this post! So agree with the words others have noted for retirement. Awesome. Ninja. Time for the web to get creative with words again. :)


Susan Wilkinson January 21, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Oh! Delicious. Can we retire delicious please? Unless you’re a caterer. Or a chef. Or a baker. Winery. Coffeehouse. You get the idea. Thank you. (Now if I use it you have my permission to call me out.) :)


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:30 am

Oh, I will call you out, Susan. ;)

I remember the first time I heard ‘delicious’ in a non-food adjectival context: I was watching Anne of Avonlea, one of my favorite girlhood films, and one of the characters said to her overbearing mother, “. . . and cousin Emily has the most delicious baby!” My 10-year old self both squealed and squirmed inside.


Alison Gresik January 21, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Love this list, Abby, especially you being willing to put “savvy” on there (you are the person I think of when I hear “savvy”).

Are we going to run out of words, do you think? Will we run through an exponentially larger list until they’re all too tired to contemplate? Will we just have to shut up and communicate with eye gazing?

Can I still use “juicy” when I mean “ripe enough to sink your teeth into”? In a metaphorical sense? If I hear it in the voice of Barbra Streisand from “Funny Girl”?


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:32 am

LOL, Alison! Thanks for the giggles.

Yes, I figure I may as well throw myself under the bus if I’m going to be so brash as to call others out. Once, ‘savvy’ felt entirely fresh and new to me. Now, it’s just . . . everywhere. Still a great word, though, in the right context.


Tzaddi January 21, 2013 at 11:53 pm

I think most designers will agree about “make it pop”!

And it’s funny, I have a worksheet that I give to clients which is called “juicy questions”. I was just thinking today that it needs a better name.

Now. Since you are a goddess of language trends, any idea where the trend came for people to
Punctuate. Every. Word. With. A. Period.?
I find it distracts me rather than having the effect it’s probably meant to have. :)


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:34 am

Tzaddi, I totally. get. it.

I have no idea where this device came from, but it’d be an interesting one to track back, that’s for sure. I’m publicly copping to overuse of it myself. That and the semi-stream-of-consciousness-broken-up-by-hyphens device. That’s all over my d*mn site. ;)


Susana Frioni January 22, 2013 at 12:47 am

*high five, Abby* This list is pretty ballsy and so much fun…and you’ve pulled it off with so much elegance (as you always do). Thank goodness for your Voice Profile – you’ve helped me identify some of my own ‘phrases + words’ but I really love this insight.

As for “woo-woo”, in my last program Selfish I did use copy saying “if chakras and astrology is too woo-woo for you, then Selfish for 27 days is not for you”. After receiving feedback that astrology and meditation was too hippie and woo-woo I wanted to be super clear on who my program was NOT for and it definitely helped.

PS. i’m really lovin’ your new site and all your awesome writings X


Wendie January 22, 2013 at 9:04 am

Susana, personally, I think that’s an appropriate use of “woo-woo.” What I don’t like is how Marie Forleo—and I love Marie—uses it: “I know this is going to be a little bit ‘woo-woo’, but….” Basically, she uses it as a preemptive strike instead of just claiming her belief system. I’ve done it in the past, too. Now, I just own my truths.


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:37 am

Agree with you, Wendie, on Susana’s use and Marie’s use. I’m guessing Marie has a segment of her audience that is very into the spiritual, and a segment that isn’t so much, so she’s trying to ‘frame’ the convo for both. In most microbusiness brands (like all of ours here in the comments so far), we’ll be speaking primarily to ONE Right Person profile, so a consistent ‘take’ on our topics is best. (In other words, boot the ‘woo-woo’ unless, as Susana did, you’re contextualizing it for the haters.)


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:35 am

Thanks, lady! As you can probably tell, I’m having a ball putting this new convo out there.

Glad to hear your Voice Profile resonated with you so. Yours was a fun one to create. Wonder what you’ll think of the new Voice Values Profile I’m getting ready to debut.


Laura Simms January 22, 2013 at 5:04 am

I can see you’ve really hustled to make this pop.

What I appreciate about this post is less to do with the actual words you identify (though, amen), and more about calling people to be intentional and specific with their language. To take it off auto-pilot, and to wrestle with communicating what they mean, in their words.

Love, your favorite purposepreneur. :)


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:38 am

Oh, you delight me, Laura.

I’m so glad that my intention came through for you — it IS less about the actual words and more about why they matter to you and how they create the relationship you want to have with your Right People.

You keep ‘preneuring, girlfriend.


Lynn / Power Chicks January 22, 2013 at 6:25 am

Abby, thank you! I admit to being a frequent user of a couple of those words and this is good motivation to, as Laura said above, get out of auto-pilot and into intentional language.


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:39 am

Hi, Lynn! Thanks for voting YES on this post, and for commenting. Getting out of autopilot is always a good thing.


Wendie Tobin January 22, 2013 at 8:28 am

In the past few weeks, I’ve sensed a lot of trouble brewing around “Nailed it!” Also, I’ve totally had it with “getting granular” and “doing a DeepDive” (both of which sound medically invasive, if you ask me). I have no patience for wheelhouses or bandwidth. though I’ll make an exception for the latter when referring to a web server.

I guess it does speak to the dreaded authenticity, but I don’t want to speak like everyone else.


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:40 am

You really need to be writing for TV, my friend.

‘Deep dives’ and ‘bandwidth’ — I’ll copy to using those.

Correction: that was supposed to be cop to. COP to. Totally Freudian typo!


Wendie January 22, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Though I hear that occasionally, it isn’t where my heart is. That’s just my goofy personality you hear.


Paul January 22, 2013 at 9:19 am

There needs to be a list of 10 things you don’t need to say to your web designer, and making it pop would definitely make that list…

As odd as it sounds coming from me, the word “awesome” sort of needs to be retired too. Sure, it’s tied to my brand now (with two books using it in their title), but it’s so overdone.


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:41 am

Oh, sure! Awesome. How could I let that one slip through the cracks? That is overused anymore, isn’t it? It feels right for you. Curious about your Voice Values. Excellence? Audacity? Power? (One of the above.)


Tea Silvestre January 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I was gonna add this one, too. Awesome and all it’s awesome sauce brethren…


abby January 23, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Hee-hee. So true. It’s ubiquitous!


Sarah January 22, 2013 at 9:19 am


I am so glad you published this profile. I found myself using “soulful” and “authentic” in my lingo but as your noted in your caveat- one of my voice values is intimacy and transparency. For me these words honor the messy part of the spiritual journey and deep nature of my work and what I like to discuss. I found it was needed in order to delineate from the new age happy spiritual hype.

From your list the number one that rubs me wrong, is the Badass term but then again audacity is NOT one of my values.

Many of the words in your list apply to attention grabbing, glitzy, pop, glamor surface that might be attracting folks but really what is there underneath. The longer I stay around in the online space the more I see we need to all do a better job of really speaking to who we are, what we stand for and how we help others. This has been no easy task.

Thanks for this list Abby!


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:44 am

Sarah, thanks for receiving this list so graciously and thoughtfully, as some of the words in your brand convo on On The List.

The longer I stay around in the online space the more I see we need to all do a better job of really speaking to who we are, what we stand for and how we help others. This has been no easy task.

The above was one of my motivations for creating my Voice Values paradigm. People needed a way to see themselves reflected back to themselves, from a position of their natural strengths, so that they could develop a brand conversation that works for them and their Right People.


Shenee January 22, 2013 at 9:24 am

I love the caveats you added! And I think this goes with the concept of creating tornado-proof copy, whenever you use ANY loaded word without creating the right setting/solid footing to land on it comes off as cliched.


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:46 am

Amen, Shenee! Great clarification about your tornado-proof copy. (Great brand language!)

My take is: in writing, there are NO rules that can’t be broken, as long as they’re broken thoughtfully and as long as the effect works. Whether it works to help a business accomplish its goals is the true test. The market tends to flush out anything that’s not working!


Bryce January 22, 2013 at 9:26 am

Ugh. Take juicy off the list forever and ever amen. Also goddess and ninja. No more ninjas!


abby January 22, 2013 at 9:47 am

Oh, goodness, yes — ninja. Haven’t we worked the ninjas hard enough?


Lisa Claudia Briggs January 22, 2013 at 9:53 am

Hi Abby..
Juicy… always made me cringe even though I understood the intention..
The big one I really want to see now and forever gone. oh please .. is “RockStar”… I have a visceral reaction to this every single time.. and yet so many people still seem to love it, relate to it , (over) use it.. I don’t know if it’s an age thing that I find it so particularly unappealing (I love rock music, most music.. nothing nothing to do with that)..
I’m not a copywriter.. just an obsessive re-writer of my own copy…
Loved the post .. and getting to rant about “rockstar”..

Back to work now..


abby January 22, 2013 at 10:53 am

Hi, Lisa! Glad to be your break reading today. Ooh, good call on ‘rock star.’ That’s overused, too.


Kristin Unleashed January 22, 2013 at 10:07 am

Great article yet again, Abby.

I admit it. I’m guilty of using juicy (but only in my email writing to friends thank goodness).

The use of the word ‘authentic’ in web copy causes me to get green around the gills. I’m so glad you included that one. I do still like (make that ‘love’) the word ‘soulful’ but only when it’s used with depth and meaning. No bantering of the word soulful please, copy writers. :)

Warmly, (oh Lord is that too overused?)


abby January 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

The funny thing is, all emotive, expressive, ‘feel good’ words like the ones in this list get embraced and popularized, and then, eventually overused. I’m curious about what the NEXT overused set of words will be.


Tamisha January 22, 2013 at 10:36 am

Abby – really not sure if I was supposed to get cracked up reading this post, but I did. :-) Not in a bad way, just love your writing style. I lol’d a couple times.

Regarding “soulful” – I obviously love the word. It just feels good and resonates w/ me. I spent a lot of time debating on using it. I gasped when I saw it on the list, but then realized it feels good because I do have a high intimacy value. I was relieved there was a caveat. But even with a caveat, I think there’s deeper work we gotta do sometimes to make SURE it’s right (depth & layers….um….yes).

Looking forward to working w/ you & Tami in Empathy Marketing. If it needs to go, I’m all about it. :-)


abby January 22, 2013 at 11:03 am

Hi, Tamisha! —

Oh my goodness, didn’t even realize you use the word ‘soulful’ — although I have looked at your online presence — when I wrote this list. I can definitely say that I wasn’t thinking of specific people when I rounded these up. They’re just SO out there that they can’t help but be noticed!

Glad you enjoy my writing style. Yeah, the post turned funny as I writing it. This is one I almost didn’t publish! Didn’t want people to get offended (that’s never my aim), so humor is a good way to point out stark truths in a gentler way. ;)


Tari January 22, 2013 at 10:39 am

These are probably used in corporate-speak more than writing, but I still vote for their retirement:
‘Overarching’. So tiresome, and what it’s really saying is “this is what I said before, but am rephrasing it with ‘overarching’ as a real underline of my previous statement.” That or using it to say “what’s really more important than what you just said is:”

‘At the end of the day.’ I think this one might be dying a slow death, except maybe in boardrooms.

I agree with all your choices & appreciate the opportunity to vent my own. Next, a rant grammaticals or spelling errors, please.


abby January 22, 2013 at 11:12 am

Hee-hee, Tari, nice job on rounding up some corporate favorites that need to walk the plank. Yeah, ‘at the end of the day’ always makes me wrinkle my nose.


Caroline Frenette Master Intuitive Coach January 22, 2013 at 11:06 am

Juicy? Really? Yes it’s over used but damn juicy is well… juicy!

I agree with woo woo though. In french it means vagina (kiddy word) so that always cracks me up.


abby January 22, 2013 at 11:13 am

Keep your juice if you must have it, Caroline! :)

No way about woo-woo. That is good to know!


Wendie January 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

I think ALL of these words have (had) their place. The reason they end up on Top Ten lists is because they end up being overused by people who aren’t truly aligned with them. We end up in an environment saturated with savvy hipsters deep diving on epic telejams. And those are the people that ruin these terminologies for the true Juicettes and Soulful Sisters.

Having said all that, let me be clear: No human being on earth aligns with the word “amazeballs.” It was always wrong. It will always be wrong.


abby January 22, 2013 at 11:40 am

We end up in an environment saturated with savvy hipsters deep diving on epic telejams. And those are the people that ruin these terminologies for the true Juicettes and Soulful Sisters.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


Amy January 26, 2013 at 12:56 am

In fact, Wendie’s hilarious comments throughout this comment thread are the perfect addition to this hilarious (and right-on) post. That bit Abby quoted up there above me delighted me and made me laugh so much that I just sat here rereading it multiple times: “Savvy hipsters diving deep on epic telejams….true Juicettes and Soulful Sisters.” See–it’s so good I had to retype it! Jargon, man. Feh.

Also, a thought: Part of what’s really annoying about all these words is, as others have observed here, that they are imprecise, sloppy substitutions for clear, well thought out language. But I think what always really bugs me about these words is that when people use them, they often come off sounding as if they’re trying really hard to be just like the cool kids–whoever they are. So not just sloppy, but–forgive me–inauthentic and maybe even a little bit desperate for a seat at the right lunch table.

This isn’t true for everyone, of course, and I’ve never thought about why before, but I suspect that I need to read more about these Voices you mention, Abby. (Time to explore your archives!). I also think a few of these terms work just fine in conversation even as they sound awful and derivative in writing. Which is interesting to me.

Oh, and can we please add “lean into” to the list?


abby January 26, 2013 at 10:09 am

Hi, Amy —

Yes. I’m afraid ‘lean into’ has earned a seat at the table. I use it, too. (Not in my business writing but in my personal conversations.) Couldn’t agree more with all you shared above!


Alison January 22, 2013 at 11:50 am

You’re hilarious.


Alison January 22, 2013 at 11:55 am

I also want to add that there is something else dying a slow death. It’s not a word, but a symbol, if you can believe that. It’s the overuse of the + symbol instead of &. I also believe Danielle laporte had something to do with this.

I have to sadly admit I used the + symbol just yesterday. And cringed when I sent out my email. I’m self-deprecating…what can I say?

I also hope I haven’t offended anyone! But please…for the love of symbols, can we give the goo ol “&” sign some play again?


abby January 22, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Oh, yes, the plus sign as conjunction! It’s everywhere. Good spot, Alison!


Melissa Black January 22, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Ooooh… I do this!


Andrea Lewicki January 22, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I do, too, although only when I’m linking positive things together. Just seems to make sense to me. :-)


abby January 23, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Do you, Melissa? How have I not noticed?


Melissa Black January 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Now that you mention it, I think that’s mostly the way I do it too Andrea (or linking people).

Abby – I totally do! Look at emails to both you and Niki. Or my newsletters (signed Melissa + Bob).


abby January 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm

I will check them! Ha!


Miki Strong January 22, 2013 at 11:51 am

It’s about time someone said the ‘oh-so-obviously-needs-to-be-said” Abby! Kudos (is that a buzz word) for saying it.

I’m with you Wendie, they had their place but they’ve been overused, and (dare I say) lacking in authenticity. Saturation takes the oomph out of them.

Love the caveats Abby … right back to authenticity.


abby January 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Saturation takes the oomph out of them.

Love the caveats Abby … right back to authenticity.

Brilliantly well said, Miki — thanks!


Joanna Powell Colbert January 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Whew! I banished “authentic” and “juicy” from my copy awhile ago, although they served me well for a long time. I am, however, still using “soulful” but since I have a high Intimacy value, I guess I get a pass on that one. I’ve been using “wholehearted” recently (hat tip to Brene Brown) instead of “authentic,” but am feeling it’s not quite right either. Or it will become overused much too quickly. I’m a little surprised “wholehearted” didn’t make your list!


abby January 22, 2013 at 2:42 pm

You know, Joanna — I bet ‘wholehearted’ will make the January 2014 list. ;)


Joanna Powell Colbert January 22, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I bet you’re right! <> :-/


Joanna Powell Colbert January 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Oops! Meant to say … getting out red editing pen now …


abby January 22, 2013 at 3:36 pm

I’m sending you something special later today. xo


Heather Thorkelson January 22, 2013 at 2:29 pm

So Much Yes!! I loved this post, and I haven’t read through all the comments so maybe someone already touched on this, but when coaches use the phrase, “hold the space” I want to throw myself in front of the nearest bus.

I also love what Wendie said above about these words being overused by people who aren’t really aligned with them, and I would add that a lot of said people don’t know what they’re aligned with so they are filling their copy up with buzzwords because they feel validated by doing what their peers are doing. I say make up your own words, sweetcakes, and Bring It from deep down inside. Swear words and all. (My two cents!)


abby January 22, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Hi, Heather —

Ah, ‘hold the space.’ I had to ask a friend who’s a CTI coach what that actually meant. This was after I started using it lavishly post-attending a slightly ‘woo-woo’ business conference. For the next two months, I was like one of those gag reels you see at the end of reality shows where they cut and splice all the instances where someone repeated the same phrase across multiple situations: Hold the space. Hold the SPACE! Hoooooooold the spaaaaaaaaaaaaaace.

Have you seen this? (Brilliantly made by two certified and practicing life coaches.)


Andrea Lewicki January 22, 2013 at 6:33 pm

My favorite resource for finding a different word is Visual Thesaurus ( The mapping feature makes it easier to figure which facet of an overused word is appealing to you. (And I’m overdue for spending some time there!)

The number one word I’d like to see retired is actually a phrase: “laser-focused.” Every time I hear it, I hear Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride say, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”


abby January 22, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Great resource, Andrea — thanks for sharing! Our right-brained, visually-oriented friends will dig this one.

I’m with you on laser-focus. Same with laser coaching. Sounds cold and clinical to me, which is not like the coaching process at all.


Kimby | a little lunch January 22, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Resonate. Unless you’re a tuning fork.


abby January 22, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Right right right.


Wendie January 22, 2013 at 11:57 pm

As I catch up on the comments, I realize how clairvoyant my Twitter account was feeling a few days ago: Considering that we might need to stop making “Words To Banish” lists or we’ll only have Klingon and middle fingers left to rely on.


Tami January 23, 2013 at 11:28 am

Oh what a fun post and discussion! I was almost afraid to read because I knew I would find at least one my words on this list. I did a search for “Tami Smith Authentic” and yes, it is right there. “Holistic search and social strategies for showing up authentically online in organic search and social”

While I don’t have transparency as one of my highest voice values, I think I’ll keep my over-used word because it works on two levels. (1) I’m talking about the rise in importance of authorship. Google Authorship is a way for Google to identify the author of a piece of content – a way of authenticating. (2) I’m using authentic as a way of saying totally real and true from a place of inner authority.

As for the hyphens, symbols and weird. use. of. punctuation. It comes from laziness on my part. I confess. Thank goodness for all you rockstar, amazeball, copywriters. At the end of the day, you fix my punctuation and make my boring dialog laser-focused and juicy!


abby January 23, 2013 at 2:15 pm

[snickers] Oh, Tami, you card, you. ;)

I agree — ‘authentic’ completely works for your brand objectives and content area.


Wendie January 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm

(Disclaimer: This is the comment that will kill the fabulous Abby Kerr.)

Actually, I’m not vehemently opposed to using a little rouge punctuation and symbology in headings, taglines, etc. (never in copy, but you wouldn’t typically see an ampersand there, either) for styling purposes. Ampersands are very traditional; Everyone wants to look new. How do you think these stupid words were born in the first place?

From a typography viewpoint, the plus symbol is symmetrical and answers to the universal definition of beauty. The ampersand? Well, lets just say that it needs to hop on the elliptical, stat!


Wendie January 23, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Rogue, not rouge. My auto correct is trying to make me Parisienne.


abby January 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Oh my goodness, Wendie, where did you get the idea that I don’t like funky/non-traditional punctuation? Have you not noticed that I’m the queen — the. queen. — of the emdash? And proudly so! I get all Emily Dickinsonian up in my copy wherever I can.


Wendie January 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Em and en dashes are traditional, no? I’m ridiculously addicted, as well.


Amy January 26, 2013 at 1:12 am

I actually have to go through my own writing and edit out most of the em-dashes. It’s that bad.

And in response to something someone said a bit further up, I think certain kinds of wonky punctuation work really well in online communication, since one is often having a typed conversation more than writing formal copy–in social media environments, mainly, and I include blogs. In that context, the multi-hyphenated, multi-word adjectives (you see what I almost did there?) and the one. word. sentences. (OMG.) add a certain kind of expressive emphasis that’s otherwise really impossible to communicate with formal, traditional use of words or punctuation. It feels like a substitute of sorts for body language and facial expressions and vocal tone.


abby January 26, 2013 at 10:12 am

I agree, Amy! This is why I love using unconventional punctuation in my writing, too.

I’m guessing emdashes and endashes are traditional, Wendie. I wasn’t taught them in school (until undergrad). Anything but the good old comma, colon, semi-colon, question mark, and exclamation market was seen as suspect.


Tara January 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Ha! Love this! I have a personal vendetta against “savvy” as it makes me think of Jesse Spano dressed up in shoulder pads (Saved By the Bell, anyone?) I’m not sure why, something about pretending to be all “savvy” without really knowing what’s going on?

I nominate Whipsmart! Clearing my inbox on Monday I came across this word in THREE different emails. Blegh. If you’re people are whipsmart, they’re also smart, sharp, or…you know what? Just stop telling me what I am, and get to the point already! I know if I’m smart or not, thankyouverymuch!

One I check myself for constantly is Clarity. I’m always looking for another word to use other than CLARITY because it just doesn’t always translate in the reader’s mind into Your Life Will Be Better (which is of course what it does, but if you haven’t experienced it, you don’t know it yet.)

Oh, and instead of awesome I think we should just all go with Totes Amazaballs like my tween brothers, right?


abby January 23, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Dude, Tara — yes. Clarity gets grossly overused (even by brand creators who do NOT have high Clarity values), because, well, we all want and could use more clarity! I like your instruction to focus on what the Clarity will bring a buyer/client: what will they be able to do, know, and understand once they have Clarity. Focusing on results is the way to, well, clarity of messaging!


Amanda January 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I’m peeking through the new copy of my site and BLAM-O… I don’t have any of these. Bwahahaha. Although… I was tempted to use badass. I might throw in a couple of other choice expletives in its place, just to make myself feel better.

Also: I super dig your Voice Values, lady. I love how they’re tying into the brand archetype that’s unfolding for violetminded. You and me? We make beautiful internet together. Just sayin’.


abby January 24, 2013 at 10:20 am

Nice, lady! No buzzwords. That’s a feat. (And I can certainly see why you’d be drawn to ‘badass.’)

How exciting to hear that you’re drawn to the Voice Values for helping to define your own brand. I can’t wait to learn more about what you’re cooking up over there at VioletMinded!


Patty January 23, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Oh how I love this! Really makes me see how much our language is influenced by what we see/hear others doing. I think it’s almost trance-like and maybe we don’t even realize we’re doing it. I found Juicy on my site and don’t even remember how it got there. I rarely use that word. It’s gone now. (Thanks!) But I’ve been saying Soul/Soulful for years so it stays.

There’s so much coach-y jargon/words/phrases I’d like to see retired:

-Yes, Badass, and also Kickass. Really anything with ass in it. Too ouchy for me.
-Playing Small and/or Dreaming Big: my eyes glaze over when I see these phrases.
-Powerful Questions: huh? Some people are good at connecting with clients by asking open-ended questions in the moment, but this always sounds to me like there’s some magical power within the question itself. Or there are certain questions that will provide ah ha moments for everyone.
-Magic: there’s so much magic going on these days but what does it really mean? (I’m also guilty of using this sometimes).
-That Marianne Williamson quote about our deepest fear: so overused it’s another eyes glaze over moment for me. BTW, it includes “playing small.”

Okay, that’s it for me. Thanks for the opportunity to share!


abby January 24, 2013 at 10:21 am

Thanks for weighing in, Patty! I’m actually surprised we haven’t heard from more coaches in this convo. There are so many in my readership!


Melanie Kissell @SoloMompreneur January 24, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Howdy, Abby!

My Word Carnivals buddy, Tea Silvestre, nudged me to “pop” over here. ;)

“Guru” has GOT TO GO!
“Killer” can go along with it!
“Thought leader” — Yuck.
“Exclusive” — Really? Your program, service, telejam (hee-hee) is exclusive? Not.

Just my nickel’s worth. :)
Wonderful read! Thank you.


abby January 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

Hiya, Melanie —

Thanks for coming by upon a tip for Tea.

Love your additions to this list. What I’m realizing we’ve been doing with terms like “thought leader” is to define the conversation we’ve having in this (as yet relatively uncharted) online space where we all work and play. I wonder what resonance ‘thought leader’ will have in, say, 10 or 50 years — if we’ll still be using it, or if it’ll have been flushed out of the conversation through natural evolution.


Susannah Conway January 25, 2013 at 11:29 am

At least twice a week i come across yet another blog or site that quotes (usually unattributed) Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I swear, every time i read that a kitten dies somewhere. Aaargh. Change. The. Record. ;-)

also, can we banish resonate, offering, change-maker (everyone’s a change maker these days!), myriad/plethora used incorrectly and using the words “so excited” in a video.


Melanie Kissell @SoloMompreneur January 25, 2013 at 9:43 pm

I’ll second your motions, Susannah!


abby January 26, 2013 at 10:17 am

Hi, Susannah —

Oh, you make me laugh. Yes, that dear Mary Oliver quote gets a lot of play, doesn’t it?

Your other suggestions make me happy, too. I wouldn’t have said ‘offering,’ but now that you mention it — it’s ubiquitous, too.

And yes — “Hello, everyone! I’m [So-and-So] and I am SO EXCITED to tell you about . . .” ;)


Galia January 26, 2013 at 10:59 am

What about Awesome, does anyone remember what the word actually means!!!
Its a beautiful word and I’d love to see it only used in its true sense again- wouldn’t that be something.

Love this post.


Abby Kerr January 28, 2013 at 10:44 am

Hi, Galia —

Yes, ‘awesome’ used in its proper context is truly . . . AWESOME. :)


Liberty January 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Great list!

I wonder what would happen if every person who commented used the words sumptuous and pure (or some agreed upon brilliant alternatives to the above list) in their next blog post? We could covertly alter the fate of next year’s overused word list. hee hee


Abby Kerr January 28, 2013 at 10:45 am

LOL, Liberty! I’m noticing a *big* uptick out there in ‘sumptuous,’ so I’m guessing your prediction isn’t far off the mark.


Peggy Lee Hanson January 28, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I stumbled across this post a few days ago… Apparently it is a popular topic with all the comments! I shared this post (now that i found it again!) with one of my mastermind groups (maybe that’s another term to ban!). In today’s session we laughed about which words we have had enough of ….I haven’t read through all the comments either, but I agree with the person who said make up your own terminology… new coaches or those learning for the first time about the spiritual laws of the universe will understand the tenets quicker if easier-to-understand conceptual words are used. SEO and Google AdWords have made these words sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to many of us. I’ve encouraged my clients to use a thesaurus when using words that take a bit more effort to comprehend.
Sharing this post!


abby January 29, 2013 at 11:05 am

Hi, Peggy! —

Thanks so much for sharing this post with your Mastermind group. :)

As a digital copywriter, I respectfully take exception to the creative naming practices that are so rampant on the online microbusiness stage. (For instance, a life coach avoiding using the term ‘life coach’ and calling herself a Life Purpose Awesome-izer, let’s say.) The reason? If you want any organic search traffic (i.e. people finding you by any other means that social media and direct links), you must be semantically aligned in Google with the words people actually use to search for your type of topic.

For instance, I would reduce my chances of business viability if I called The Voice Bureau a ‘word-twirling tribe of scribes’ rather than a boutique digital copywriting agency? The reason? No one is searching for ‘word-twirling scribes,’ but many people are searching for ‘copywriters’ or ‘web copywriters.’

I’m glad you raised this issue. Creative naming can be fun (and is a big trend among people who provide creative services), but it’s important for brand creators to know where and when to use creative naming versus more traditional terms. It’s super important to use traditional terms on main site pages (Home, About, Work With Me), in cornerstone content (blog posts, 101-style articles), and in meta tags for each page and post (title tag, meta description tags, and keyword tags).


Laura Viviana January 31, 2013 at 11:43 am

Abby! Brilliant, and you took the words (literally) right out of my head. This post is great. Words I’d like to retire: Goddess! And that’s sad, because the goddesses of old were so incredible. This word is played out; let’s leave it alone so we can start using it again, haha!


Abby Kerr February 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm

We’ve seen a lot of goddess talk out there, haven’t we, Laura? I agree with you that for those who really own it, it’s a beautiful and powerful thing. :)


Rebecca Bass-Ching January 31, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Abby – I really appreciate this post and the ensuing dialogue. I have to say “juicy” has always repelled and I am saddened that “authentic” has been over-played to where it comes across as, well, inauthentic. Someone above posted that it seems many people use words with out really understanding their meaning. I could not agree more.

My spoken vernacular is subject to “Awesome” (80’s child), “You betcha” (Minnesota native) and “Cool beans” (no clue where that comes from…). Though translating clinical speak in my writing – I am a Licensed marriage and Family Therapist – to be clear, sincere and engaging has been a challenge. Clinical speak is distancing to most and trendy lingo and other hyperbole can be seductive if you are not clear on your own personal voice. I really appreciate your voice values and am enjoying sharing them with clients as they seek to get clear on their own unique and special voice. Thanks so much for your voice and guidance in the loud and crazy online world.


Abby Kerr February 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Rebecca! —

It’s so lovely to hear that you’re sharing the Voice Values paradigm in your therapy practice. THAT is truly awesome. Thank you for letting me know. (I can hear you saying “You betcha.”) ;)


Maggie Dodson March 12, 2014 at 4:46 am

Yes, I have one.
I don’t want to ban it but I would like it to be used properly as it is being completely overwhelmed with bad affiliations on social media.
That word is SAD.
I have no objection whatsoever to the word itself which describes a proper human emotion, what I cannot stand is the word being thrown around willy-nilly to make it easier for the lazy writer to make a comment on anything from a tragic situation to a mildly disconcerting one.
Unnatural and unexpected events wipe out thousands of people; war decimates whole cities and communities; women are physically maimed in the name of culture or war; your cat disappears, never to return……..
All these situations have a sad element for the individual who sustains the enormity of the onslaught but one cannot possibly equate grievous bodily harm or murder, with your cat’s disappearance. Premeditated cruelty and a cat’s wanderlust are just not the same thing. And if ‘sad’ is the only comment you make on a particular subject then you are what has come to be known in modern times as, sad.
Think about it, use more words, is my advice.


Maggie Dodson March 12, 2014 at 4:52 am

I was reminded of this illustrating a misplaced economy with words.


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