In past columns, I’ve written about words to avoid on your LinkedIn profile. It also holds for other ways you market yourself (your resume, cover letter) and your business (blog, website, company LinkedIn, marketing materials). The point is to get the attention of recruiters, prospective bosses, customers and anyone else you want to remember and act on what you write. You don’t want to distract them with the wrong words — words that overpromise, are fluffy and unnecessary or sound like corporate lingo.
A good rule of thumb is to use the most common word, and often there is the added advantage that these words are shorter, saving precious space. For example, the word “use” is better than “utilize” or “leverage.” Think about how people talk. And by people, I mean people in everyday life, not those who have been immersed in corporate lingo.
Here are four words to avoid on LinkedIn and anything else you write about yourself and your company.
Whatever happened to the word custom? All of a sudden I’m seeing people describe their products and services as “bespoke.” And I’m not talking about Clare Waight Keller, the British fashion designer for Givenchy who designed Meghan Markle’s wedding gown.
Merriam-Webster offers this definition for bespoke: “custom made — a bespoke suit; dealing in or producing custom-made articles — a bespoke tailor.”
Keller can use “bespoke” all day long to talk about her work. The rest of us might consider sticking with “custom.” But even then we have to be honest with ourselves and our customers and clients. Are our products and services really custom? You can use a word so much that it means nothing. Something to keep in mind.
I read authentic everywhere. People say they are authentic. Their experiences are authentic. Their voices are authentic. What does it even mean? What are you trying to say?
Authentic has been rendered meaningless. If you are trying to describe yourself, show rather than tell. You don’t have to tell people you are authentic. Rather tell them a story — about you, about your product, about your services. Let them conclude that you are the real deal.
I started seeing “curated” pop up several years ago when I was a Stitch Fix subscriber and was promised curated boxes of clothing and accessories. A quick glance at the website shows “curated” still appears. Several companies claim “curated,” which Merriam-Webster defines as “selected, organized, and presented using professional or expert knowledge.”
“Curated” doesn’t bother me as much as “bespoke.” But as a consumer I do wonder how much hands-on curating is happening at companies that use the term. After all, my female coworkers and I would get a good laugh when we could identify Stitch Fix outfits on one another– that we also owned.
Alternative, unless you are indeed a museum curator, use ‘selected.’
Full disclosure. I am guilty of this one, writing emails wanting to connect on a certain project or connect with someone I haven’t spoken with in a while.
Now that I’ve written this column and am more mindful of my own go-to words, I’m making a note to say what I mean. I’d like to talk with you about XXX. I’d like your opinion or recommendation on such and such. I’d like to meet with you for coffee or lunch. Rather than using a blanketed term, get more specific with what you’re looking for.
The bottom line is that this isn’t about certain words being bad. I love words, language, writing. I love storytelling and using words to persuade, move and inspire people. I love writing about writing and being a writer. It’s really about making sure we select the right words and don’t rely on crutch words or lazy words. It’s about making sure we and our businesses stand out and that we live up to the words we use to describe ourselves.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.