Don't turn off prospects with words meant to impress

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

How do you feel when you can see that someone is trying to impress you?

It depends on the way they go about it, right?

We all try to impress others in some way. For most of us it simply means being friendly and "real." It means "putting our best foot forward." It also means dressing appropriately and carrying on an intelligent conversation. In that situation, the attempt to impress is subtle. It's also inoffensive.

Of course, someone hoping to work for you is going to try to impress you by listing their credentials, experience, etc. That's what they're expected to do in that situation and you'd be disappointed if they didn't.

Then there are those who seek to impress by being loud, obnoxious, obscene, or just plain stupid. They're the kind who seem to want to make a negative impression - and they do.

And then... there are those who try to impress by using words designed to show that they're "professionals." In spite of the fact that I'm a "word person" I can't think of exactly what to call those words. Pompous, perhaps? Maybe condescending or pretentious, or self-important?  They're kind of "Look at me, I really know a lot" words.

If you use these "words meant to impress" in conversation with someone who doesn't know their meaning, you've lost the communication. You've also annoyed them, because you've made them feel inferior for not knowing what the heck you're talking about. Since nobody really likes anyone who makes them feel inferior, that's not a good thing to do to prospects.

I came across one of those words today in a comment on a blog post. (No, not on Active Rain.)

The woman was giving advice about a website and she said: "You need to identify and maybe quantify the things that make you different and better than your competition."

Now, "quantify" is not a word I use. In fact, it always annoys me. I actually passed on a copywriting job for someone whose phone conversation was filled with that and similar words. I knew he'd want them in the copy to his clients, and I just couldn't / wouldn't do that.

I'll admit that I had never taken the time to find out exactly what it means. But even being unsure of the exact definition, it felt "off" in this sentence. So I looked it up, and I think perhaps that writer doesn't know exactly what it means either.


1. to discover or express the quantity of

2. (Philosophy / Logic) Logic to specify the quantity of (a term) by using a quantifier, such as all, some, or no

 What do you think? Do you need to express the quantity of the things that make you different from your competition? It seems to me you might want to mention or discuss or explain the things that make you different, not count  them. 

I believe using these "impressive" words is always a mistake - unless you're speaking with other people who use them in their daily life. But if you DO choose to use them, it would be a really good idea to look them up and know exactly what you're saying.




Comments (16)

Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate
John L Scott Market Center - Birkenfeld, OR
"Your Local Expert!" 503-755-2905

Marte~I'm a wordy-girl! Love interesting words and for those who are into it, I will occasionally ask, "what is your favorite word?" Mine is:


I love it because it sounds nice to me! I like saying it! It rolls off the tongue well.  It's meaning is:


the formation of a word, as cuckoo, meow, honk, or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.
a word so formed.
the use of imitative and naturally suggestive words for rhetorical, dramatic, or poetic effect.
I like it when I find a word I don't know in a novel or some other book that I'm reading and sometimes stop and go look it up. But, this isn't exactly your point...and I DEFINITELY agree with you on not particularly liking those folks who try too hard to impress. I think that is based in insecurity. It's basically a subtext that says, "if I tell you how fabulous I am, then maybe you'll LIKE me!"
I also don't like people who do a lot of "I talk"..I did this, I did that...(I'm BORED by your "I's"!!!)
(Oops, there were a lot of I's when I told you my opinion)...anyway, what's YOUR favorite word?
Jun 20, 2012 04:33 PM
Elizabeth Bolton
RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA - Cambridge, MA
Cambridge MA Realtor

Hi Marte ~ One of my pet peeves (which I confess are many) is the word "residence" when used in a real estate description.  Aaach!! Run screaming in the night.  I hate it.  


Jun 21, 2012 01:46 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Gayle - It's pretty hard not to us "I" when stating your own opinion! It's when people use it to monopolize a conversation or use it in marketing materials (that should be about the prospect) that it makes me crazy.

You're probably right about why people use those words. Insecurity, feelings of inferiority, maybe even an inner need to make themselves feel that they're "above" the people who don't know and use those words.

I have a friend who uses "big words" and then, in an attempt to educate us, spells them and gives the definition. Since I like him, I just consider the source - his many insecurities.

I'll have to think about your question. Do I even have a favorite word? I don't know. I know I like digging through my thesarus to find a word that more clearly expresses whatever I'm trying to convey.

Liz - It does sound a little pompous, doesn't it? I can see using it in a letter or ad if you don't know what the residence might be - because it would cover everything from an apartment or condo to a singlewide trailer to a mansion. (Or maybe even a tent, if they live there!)

Jun 21, 2012 02:56 AM
Debbie Reynolds, C21 Platinum Properties
Platinum Properties- (931)771-9070 - Clarksville, TN
The Dedicated Clarksville TN Realtor-(931)320-6730

Marte, I like interesting words but have found you leave people with a puzzled look on their faces so keep it simply and concise.

Jun 21, 2012 08:42 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Debbie - when the purpose is communication, it is best not to confuse! And while you can get away with being a bit pompous with friends who love you anyway (like my friend with the spelling), potential clients will just go find someone who "talks English."

Jun 21, 2012 08:56 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Marte- I love words and love to listen to those who are well spoken.  It saddens me when I listen to even the news commentators.  It used to be that a journalist had a better than basic command of the English it seems more importance is placed on how they look. 

Jun 23, 2012 07:20 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Kathy - It does seem that way, but perhaps it comes down to needing to appeal to the masses. When you study copywriting you learn that copy needs to be geared to a 7th grade reading level.

If you aim higher, you lose too many readers.  (I know, that's sad.)

I got an email a few days ago about the ladies on Fox News. Someone had accused them of being beautiful but empty-headed. The email showed a long list of those pretty faces along with the impressive degrees they had - many of them hold Masters Degrees, some have taught at the university level, and some are attorneys.

Jun 23, 2012 07:41 AM
Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles real estate concierge services

Well put, Marte.  When you go to a site like Web Grader it grades your site by the level of language you use.  If you are talking at Ph.D. level you are going to lose your audience.  I think you are right about the word "pompous".  "Arrogant" is another one.

Jun 28, 2012 03:00 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Jane - I agree, arrogant is another good description.

Jun 28, 2012 03:27 AM
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Marte - what an interesting discussion. I think it is simply about the "situational" appropriateness (if you will - :). If your clientele are holding PhD, then it would be appropriate and warranteed.

Like "quantify" would be not just appropriate, but unavoidable in science as it is the basis of scientific analysis, it would be natural in math at certain level...

Also, the words we use describe us, and it is part of us, and it is very annoying when a person in a conversation adjusts to the level of the party they are communicating with.

We mostly understand others even when they are using words not commonly used in a conversation. As long as the purpose is not to impress (and here you are absolutely correct), then it is fine.

I could not get it about the favorite word. I always thought that language is the instrument to think and express yourself. I don't think there could be "favorite" words, unless they are used to impress, and then we are back to where you started (LOL)

Jul 01, 2012 04:41 AM
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Marte - I submitted the comment and then opened it again and read it, and there were mistakes one upon the other. And I started laughing. Sometimes we might sound so smart, but typos (or mistakes) would make us look ... like people who want to impress with "fancy" words (LOL)

Jul 01, 2012 04:44 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Jon - Yes, you're right. It really does come down to "situational appropriateness."

And it is interesting how we "mostly understand" words that are not in common use. Every now and then I'll stop and find one of them in a dictionary, just to make sure I really do understand. Quite often I'll find that the person who was using the word didn't actually know what it meant.

The other night my husband and the 2 neighborhood "boys" (all 3 are old retired Veterans) were out in the shop and we got to talking about a certain person in government. The word narcissism came up and we all decided that while we were pretty sure what it meant, we didn't have the actual definition. That night I looked it up and found that it was what we thought, only more so. It really is a psychological disorder.

I don't know about favorite words. I don't have any, but my neighbor seems to. When it's time for him to head for home he always says he's going to peregrinate. (To journey or travel from place to place, especially on foot.)

Jul 01, 2012 04:59 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Jon - I didn't catch the mistakes. We all have so many typos here that unless someone uses some completely inappropriate word (like reign for rein or wholly for holy), I don't see it.

Jul 01, 2012 05:02 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Marte, These are my favorite words in your post.....But if you DO choose to use them, it would be a really good idea to look them up and know exactly what you're saying.


Jul 01, 2012 08:27 PM
Katie Muck

I think we can carry on an intelligent conversation without being pompous or arrogant.  

Sep 01, 2012 07:32 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Margaret - Abolutely.

Katie -Pomposity and arrogance can spell the end of an intelligent conversation. Especially when the words are used incorrectly.

Sep 02, 2012 12:16 AM