Platitudes are a waste of editorial space.

“It’s important to have a strategy.”

Honestly, how many professionals would think that their brand should go without a strategy?

“Always put the customer first.”

A perfectly valid approach in business. But how exactly does one put the customer first? This is not the actionable type of advice we’re looking for.

“Be patient and think long-term.”

Sure, but how? How exactly do I get rid of those pesky feelings of impatience and those internal pressures of producing results as fast as possible?

“You should publish epic content.”

Gee, thanks.

According to Wikipedia:

“A platitude is a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement, generally directed at quelling social, emotional, or cognitive unease. The word derives from plat, the French word for “flat.” Platitudes are geared towards presenting a shallow, unifying wisdom over a difficult topic. However, they are too overused and general to be anything more than undirected statements with an ultimately little meaningful contribution towards a solution.”

Whether you’re in marketing and communications or not, you’ll see platitudes everywhere. And for some reason, platitudes are becoming the go-to format for many branded content strategies.

How to Fight Platitudes

Platitude writing tends to do relatively well in social media. A text loaded with obvious statements and no real knowledge can still attract quite a lot of social engagement. People often hit that “Like” button (or emoji-button or whatever) without even reading the actual article it refers to. Their engagement reflects how they agree with the headline and how it adds to their own personal world view1. It’s probably also a psychological bandwagon-effect2 at play, a way of signal belonging to important social circles.

If you’re a content producer — how can you avoid platitudes in your own writing?

As you copy-edit your content, also schedule a platitude check. With a bit of conscious editing, you’ll soon become ‘allergic’ to platitudes and removing them will become second nature.

Photo by Niko Lienata on Unsplash.

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  1. See Wikipedia: Cognitive Dissonance.
  2. Wikipedia: The Bandwagon Effect.