The annoying habit that makes business types sound desperate and untrustworthy

You’re proud of your business and you want to tell people about it, right? So you figure the more you emphasise what’s great about your product (or service or skill) the more impact your words will have.

Well not if you fall into the trap of tautology.

Tautology simply means repeating the same idea in different words. Phrases such as “singularly unique”, “he died in a fatal accident” and “first priority” are all good examples of tautology.

And tautology is a habit that many business types fall into without even realising it. But to the sensitive reader a tautological phrase suggests a sense of desperation in the writer. It’s got a “lady-doth-protest-too-much” ring about it – and no more so than when you’re trying to sell a product, a service or even an idea.

So I hereby launch Tautology Tuesdays. Every Tuesday for the next few weeks I’ll discuss a different example of tautology that I come across regularly in my corporate work.

They’re the all-too-common phrases you should banish from your business writing to sound less overblown and desperate to your audience. Your readers will trust you more without these phrases, even if they don’t know why.

First up: “innovative new products”.

This phrase is ubiquitous in the business world – a quick search on Google returned 423,000 examples. So your product is new? That’s great! But I only need to be told once.

Repeating yourself tells me that either you think I’m too dim to get the message the first time – or that you’re hiding something. Such as the fact that this supposed innovation is really just a tired old rehash, a rip-off of a competitor’s superior offering, or that you’ve just fixed something that didn’t work the first time round.

It’s new or it’s innovative. But it can’t be both. So lose one of the adjectives, please.

2 Responses to “The annoying habit that makes business types sound desperate and untrustworthy”

  1. Zoe says:

    Looking forward to reading more Tautology Tuesdays! Branching off of this post: how about “new and improved”? Not a tautology, but come on, which one is it — is it a new product, or an improved version of an old one?

  2. clare says:

    A new and improved innovative product – I gotta get me one of those!

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