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In yesterday's New York Times Book Review, Joe Queenan wrote a hysterical essay about the glowing adjectives used to describe novels. The piece was called: "Astonish Me...."

Queenan describes, with much humor, how he currently buys only books that have the word "astonishing" in the reviews as part of his self-screening process. A while back, "incandescent" was his book purchase filter.
This made me think of all the marketing implications (for the publishing industry and beyond):
* We are running out of words, because we've long since been over-using and abusing them. "Astonishing" and "spectacular" used to mean something really significant. And, what about the word "awesome"? Remember when that applied to something worthy of awe? (A sunset viewed from the beach at Tofino, Vancouver Island, for one). Now it is used by adults as well as kids to describe a new backpack or kitchen gadget.
* We are under the false impression that consumers are sold by grander and grander superlatives and adjectives(!!!). People are much more savvy today. They see the word "staggering," and think to themselves "yeah, right."
* We are lazy. We throw the same words that all our competitors have used into a marketing campaign because we haven't really talked with consumers. We need to isolate their words and phrases for why our product or service resonates.
I am as guilty of the above as the next guy (except that I am a stickler for using the word "awesome" only when I am in awe). Still, though I absolutely am not the queen of grammar and language, Queenan's piece forced me to laugh long and hard, and look within. I will renew my resolve to put more thought into word choice!
Would your customers describe your brand as "striking" and "monumental," or "biggest" and "most award-winning"?

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image of Andrea Learned
Andrea Learned is a noted author, blogger, and expert on gender-based consumer behavior. Her current focus is on sustainability from both the consumer and the organizational perspectives. Andrea contributes to the Huffington Post and provides sustainability-focused commentary for Vermont Public Radio.