David McGuire

22 May 2015

For the love of God, can we all stop saying ‘passionate’?

I have a simple proposal. From now on, any copywriter caught using the word ‘passionate’ may – in fact, must – be openly mocked.

(And made to wear a dunce’s hat. And chained up in a public place and pelted with over-ripe fruit. With the whole thing live-streamed around the world, as a warning to others.)

Admittedly, it might seem a touch extreme, but it’s for the good of our industry. How else can our community finally move away from a word that has frankly been stinking the place out for years?

‘Passionate’ is a sure sign of crap copy. Here’s why

“Don’t tell me you’re funny; tell me a joke.”

Like honesty, approachability and expertise, passion isn’t something you talk about – it’s something you prove. Good copywriters show, and don’t tell; if we’re reduced to writing about passion, we’ve already failed.

If the client really does have a level of emotional intensity about a subject, let’s convey that in voice and tone, the kinds of content they offer and the stories they share.

Talk is cheap – so nudge clients away from saying they’re ‘passionate’, towards acting in a way that makes it obvious how they feel.

It’s utterly meaningless anyway

Want a fun way to kill five minutes? Check Google for some of the 61.8 million things (yes, really) companies claim to be passionate about.

“We are passionate about networking and communications.”

“We are passionate about sandwiches.”

“We are passionate about pipe elbows.”

I’m sorry; that’s bullshit. You know it, I know it, and – more to the point – your customers know it, too.

We’ve reached the point where ‘passionate about’ is so ubiquitous, such an unconscious tic in corporate language, that it simply doesn’t mean anything any more. It has no power to surprise. To convince. To raise an eyebrow.

It’s filler.

Words have a hype cycle

All this is only natural: the more often we writers see a word around, the faster it comes to mind when we’re writing our own copy, so usage snowballs.

Soon enough, the word’s everywhere. It gets overused and stale. (Surely we’ve reached peak ‘artisan’ now; hopefully ‘iconic’ or the verb ‘experience’ will be next.)

But that’s not the end. A word can become so tiresome – and so rarely sincere – it begins to harm credibility. And that’s where ‘passionate’ is now: approaching ‘we are committed to…’ levels of shifty buzzword shiteness.

The copywriters' hype cycle, by Lungfish

So let’s stop using it

Here’s the good news: as copywriters, we can make a difference.

If we choose, we can take the lead, and release ‘passionate’ back into its natural environment, giving it space to graze, recuperate and – who knows – maybe one day rejoin the herd of perfectly good words in a copywriter’s reserve.

But it’ll take courage, and determination. After all, our clients like ‘passionate’; they’re comfortable with it. So we need to push back, to explain, to inspire them with better alternatives.

If they’re dead set on talking about how very much they care, then let’s find a stronger, less clichéd way to say it.

But better still, let’s help them to show that passion instead.

Enjoyed this article? Tough. The Lungfish team are usually too busy ghostblogging for other people to write many posts of our own (but if you follow us on Twitter, we’ll pop up sometimes and show you where the good stuff is).

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