The kiss of death when it comes to marketing communications is copy filled with general statements that fail to communicate anything meaningful. Non-specific copy is a red flag that signals puffery and a lack of substance, and yet it’s all too common. Dan Santow of Word Wise gives two great examples of common phrases that are employed to impress, but end up leaving the reader with little to work with.
Dan’s first example is “ranging from,” as in “Bamboo leaf extract Finds Its Way Into Products Ranging From Shampoo to Cosmetics to Candles.”
Does this mean there’s bamboo leaf extract in fruit juice and plant fertilizer?… A range should have some sort of continuum—a sequence or progression—such as “the restaurant serves everything from hors d’oeuvres to dessert.” We understand this to mean it serves every course.
Another common culprit is “everything from,” as in “a new store offers everything from clothing to toys to computers.”
Does the store sell boogie boards and foie gras, too? … [W]hen we use the phrase “everything from,” it excludes nothing. So though “everything from” works fine when used with a true range, as in the restaurant example, it doesn’t work in the case of the store that “sells everything from clothing to toys to computers.” If that was true, the store would offer at least one of everything in the world (talk about a superstore), and I’m not even sure our pals at Wal-Mart could claim that.
As Dan points out, these are two common examples of lazy writing. When you don’t take the time to be specific and precise with your words, readers don’t trust you and tend to tune you out. At a minimum, you’re not effectively communicating what you have to offer, which means you’re likely wasting your time and money.