Full Service Marketing for Higher Education, Health Care & B2B Marketing


Ban These Words from Your Higher Ed Content


Joan Benson

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You’ve done your best on your landing page, using words you believe to be relevant and timely. But when you step back from your copy, all you see is word salad! This happens to the best of us, usually because we’re using the wrong vocabulary.

In my 30 years of experience in higher ed marketing (Really, can I be that old? Yes…), I’ve noticed certain words that immediately turn potential students off. These words slow the momentum of your copy and can even make you seem untrustworthy. I’ve seen the bounce rate on landing pages improve just because these words were removed. Here are the words and phrases you should never use in your higher ed content.


These are corporate-speak that might feel very in vogue right now but are already outdated even as you’re writing them. Once language reaches the corporate sphere, it’s already considered cliche and overused. Not to mention, your competitors are probably using these exact same words. You don’t want to sound just like the competition. You want to sound straightforward and convincing where no one else is. Here are corporate buzzwords to avoid in 2024:

  • Think outside the box
  • Leverage
  • Disrupter
  • Drill down
  • Low-hanging fruit
  • Synergy
  • New normal
  • Circle back
  • Move the needle
  • Get on the same page
  • Take this offline
  • Lean in
  • Utilize

These buzzwords from popular culture are also too stale to make fresh content:

  • Hack
  • Life hack
  • Holistic
  • Influencer
  • Ducks in a row

Words that Claim Too Much

These words are trying to say a lot, and if you’re using them there better be evidence to back them up. Otherwise, if a potential student sees “flawless” they’re immediately going to distrust the copy. After all, there’s no way your program is actually flawless—you’re human! Potential students want to feel that you’re telling them the truth, and these words immediately make you seem dishonest.

  • Revolutionary
  • Unique
  • Groundbreaking
  • Unparalleled
  • Unprecedented
  • Matchless
  • Unrivaled
  • Beyond compare
  • Flawless
  • First of its kind
  • World-class
  • World-renowned
  • Transformative

Higher Ed-Specific Words

These words mean something so specific in our industry that they are incomprehensible jargon to someone on the outside—as your website audience is. At best, these are confusing. At worst, they alienate your audience.

  • Matriculate
  • Outcomes
  • Learning Outcomes
  • Prospective

When you remove these words, you start to sound less like an advertising bot and more like a human. These words can be tempting to use, but relying on them is a mistake.

Let’s look at an example of a sentence made better when the banned words were removed. I’ve bolded the problematic words we want to remove.

Before: Discover the transformative power of our HVAC program, where we utilize a comprehensive approach to training, resulting in groundbreaking outcomes that prepare you for success in the industry.

After: Explore our HVAC program. We use a hands-on approach to training that will help you develop the practical skills you need to land your first job in the industry.  

The first sentence uses more words, but it doesn’t say much. What does a comprehensive approach to training mean? And is it really groundbreaking? What exactly are these outcomes? The first sentence gives the reader no reason to trust us with their time and money. In fact, it gives active reasons to distrust—why all the smoke and mirrors, a potential student could ask.

The second set of sentences is straightforward, to the point, and clarifies exactly what the goals of the program are—to help people get entry-level jobs in the HVAC program. Without all the fluff, the point gets across.

In higher education marketing, language holds immense power, shaping perceptions and influencing decisions. I’ve noticed that certain words can inadvertently hinder student engagement and trust. By removing these problematic words and phrases, higher ed marketers can boost conversions and sound human, empathetic, and convincing.

Interested in creating relevant and engaging content? Contact us at [email protected] for a personalized consultation about how you can transform your communications.

Another content article from Joan: Our Empty Words