I edit one or two dozen articles each week and skim through dozens more on various websites. Over the course of a normal day, I come across overused words and phrases. Most of the time, I can hold my breath and deal with a “disruptive” here or 20 repetitions of “that” there. But there’s one word that I can’t handle anymore: The word “sexy” needs to be deleted from your content.
‘Sexy’ is everywhere
There’s an article with the oh-so-clickable title, “6 Content Marketing Tips for Non-Sexy Industries.”
A few young entrepreneurs share some tantalizing insight on “how to give a company in a ‘boring’ industry a little sex appeal.”
Another article promises to “show you how to make a boring industry sexy with content marketing.”
I get it. Sex sells and all. But can’t we all agree that it’s getting a little ridiculous when we are so worried about click-through rates and shares that we resort to using sex to sell our written content online?
Content isn’t sexy. Business isn’t sexy, unless you literally sell lingerie or work with hot celebrities. One part of a business isn’t “sexier” than another—your innovative new app is not more inherently “sexy” than your HR policies.
The actual definition of sexy is as follows: (adj) sexually suggestive or stimulating: erotic.
Is your innovative, new software as a service platform literally more sexually suggestive or stimulating than your HR policies? If it is, you may need to consult your HR policies on how to handle that problem. But likely, neither aspect of your business has sexual appeal, so stop using that language to describe them in your content marketing.
It’s cliche. It’s an appeal to the immediate piqued interest everyone has to any sex-related word. Using “sexy” is just…basic, and quite frankly, so sixth-grade.
Using ‘sexy’ actually hurts your content
What you actually mean instead of “sexy” is “actually interesting” or “clickable” or “actionable” or “more contemporary sounding than a 17th century treatise.” It seems unlikely that you actually want to arouse your target reader, so consider what you do want your reader to think about your headline—or hook or takeaways—and use those words instead. Don’t be lazy—spend some time thinking about what you actually mean when you’re tempted to resort to “sexy.” Using a more accurate word will make it easier for your readers to understand what you mean; by ditching the buzzwords, you’re showing that you trust your audience to click on your article even though it isn’t “sexy.”
“But Merriam Webster provides an alternative definition for sexy,” you protest. “See, right here, Merriam Webster says that ‘sexy’ is also defined as ‘generally attractive or interesting: appealing a sexy stock.’”
I call BS. Stocks are not sexy—sex is sexy. Merriam Webster, we know you love being the cool new dictionary around town, but stop.
The thing is, when “sexy” is everywhere, it’s nowhere. When you overindulge in using “sexy,” “sexy” becomes meaningless, even to the point where Merriam Webster acknowledges that “sexy” doesn’t really mean “sexy” anymore. When “sexy” loses its meaning and you keep using “sexy,” your content also becomes meaningless and irrelevant. And is it really content marketing if you’re just grabbing at sensational words in the dark without delivering value and educational content to your audience?
Don’t let “sexy” slide into your hook. Prevent it from slipping into your takeaways. And for the love of God, resist the urge to thrust it into your headline.