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One adjective I always delete when I'm editing copy

And 101 words I use instead


There's one word I always delete when I'm editing copy.


Why?


It's overused. It's filler. It doesn't add detail. It saps energy from copy.


So why does it get used so much?


It's a jack of all trades. It's catch-all. It fills a gap when you just know you need to add an adjective.


What's the word?


Stylish.


Stylish? Surely, it's not so bad?


Well, imagine I wrote:


Complete your autumn wardrobe with a stylish dress.


Does that help you visualise the dress? Is it long or short? What colour is it? Does it have killer shoulder pads or demure polka dots? And more importantly, do you want to buy it?


So, let's delete 'stylish'. We still need to describe that dress. And we're left with that pesky gap. That gap where you know an adjective needs to go.


So, what do I use instead?


Here's 101 alternatives.


Let's start simple, can you describe the shape?

Slip, waist-cinching, oversized, structured, tailored

The length?

Midi, micro, maxi


Colours or prints?

Day-glo, jewel-toned, over-saturated, fluoro, muted


What about a finish?

Draped, high-shine, sequinned


What's it made from?

Cashmere, velvet, leather


Or pick a detail, any detail:

Slogan, embellished, ruffled, printed, pleated, cut-out, puffed-sleeved


That's 26. So far, a bit expected. Let's get a bit more imaginative.


Can you sell a benefit?

Effortless, flattering, key, versatile, easy-to-wear, one-and-done, mix-and-match, work-appropriate, cosy, lightweight, your-new-go-to, trans-seasonal, day-to-night, less-is-more, wardrobe-hero


Does it nod to a trend?

Power-shouldered, preppy, gothic, Victoriana, mod, punk, romantic, off-duty, vintage, prairie, athleisure


A decade?

1970s-disco, 1990s-androgynous, 1980s-throwback


That's 55.


What's influenced the design?

Red carpet, haute couture-inspired, street wear


A type of clothing?

Utilitarian, workwear-influenced, sportswear


What about a place?

Italian-inspired, Japanese-influenced, Parisian cool


A cultural reference?

Worthy-of-a-Wes-Anderson-moodboard, film-noir, pop-art colour blocked


What if the dress had a personality?

Fun, irreverent, playful, ladylike, relaxed, refined, grown-up, cool, daring, joyful, edgy, dramatic, sporty, bold


81.


Just because you can't use 'stylish', doesn't mean you can't reference the style:

Maximalist, minimalist, elegant, chic, boho, functional, low-key, laid-back, high-impact, high-octane, simple, gamine, polished, pared-back, sleek, luxe, statement, understated, timeless, heritage


That's 101.


And if you're still struggling to describe the look, can you say something else entirely?

Bestselling, sustainable, perennial-favourite, covetable, most-wanted, ultimate, iconic, much-imitated, famed, unmistakeable, It-dress, hardworking.


And breathe.


For me, it's important that every word justifies its place in a piece of writing. It needs to create a mental image. It needs to add energy and detail. It needs to build the brand voice and the brand's authority.


And if it doesn't, it's not the right word for that gap.

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