“Hundreds of Years of Combined Experience!” (And Other Worry-Free Writing Peeves)

Just heard one of my least favorite marketing expressions on the radio.

An ad for an elder law practice touted the firm’s “hundreds of years of combined experience.” Not an egregious offense, but so overused, the meaning is lost.

Any listener who wasn’t born yesterday knows better. This description doesn’t mean the practice was founded by the partners’ forbearers in the Middle Ages, nor are any of the resident attorneys 500-year-old vampires (at least I hope not).

What it literally means is if you add up all the ages of the staff, you get a number in the hundreds. Which could be said for most businesses with more than four staff out of college.

What “hundreds of years…” wants to convey is, “We have years of experience in this field and working in our community.” Or deeper, “We understand your needs, as seniors and the people who love them.” And on a practical level, “We have the knowledge and expertise to assist you and your family with retirement, extended care, and estate planning needs.”

Wouldn’t it be better to just say that? Other examples of language infractions that have irked me of late…

“So-and-so lost their battle with cancer.” As a cancer survivor myself and relative of loved ones who have succumbed to cancer, NO ONE who braves a cancer diagnosis, endures cancer treatments, and lives with cancer is a loser. Let’s strike this piece of maudlin media manure from the headlines, please.

“No Left Turn Allowed from 7 to 9 a.m. – Trucks Excluded.” Fuzzy signage drives me nuts! This one is on a sign at a busy rural intersection only Boston’s historic road engineers (with their hundreds of years of combined experience!) could conjure up. What’s unclear from this sign is whether trucks are excluded from the No Left Turn rule, OR if they need to stay off the road entirely. I just go the other way rather than trying to figure that one out, or risk getting clipped by an equally confused semi.

So as we writers all gear up for 2013, let’s make a group resolution to say what we mean, dispense with marketing fluff and jargon, and always proofread for clarity. That said…

What are your favorite love-to-hate marketing / media expressions? Or examples of discombobulating copy (besides this fragmented sentence)? Sling ’em at me in the comments below and maybe we can vent on them in a future article.

Happy New Year 2013! Here’s to our hundreds of years of combined writing kick-assery!

3 thoughts on ““Hundreds of Years of Combined Experience!” (And Other Worry-Free Writing Peeves)

  1. Here are a few for the Marketing Wall of Shame:

    “I don’t take no for an answer.”

    “Just imagine what you could accomplish if you invested in your business and worked with me! You could be making six figures in under a year!”

    “I’ve never offered this program before, and I’ll never offer it again at this low rate. Sign up now to learn the secret to my success.”

    “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!”

    “Say ‘YES!’ to a higher vision for your life!”

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