Stop using “needs” as a noun.

Feb 12, 2011 by     3 Comments    Posted under: Uncategorized

If there is a condensed example of a modern copywriting cliché, it’s using the word “needs” as a noun.

You know, for all your floor covering needs. Or all your family dental needs. Or all your agricultural equipment needs.

Today, as I was satisfying my salad bar needs, I heard all three of those on a local radio station. How awful.

“Needs” has been used millions of times by hack copywriters. It never had any real meaning anyway, but it officially crossed the line back in about 1960. Since then, it’s really nothing more than an indication that the writer doesn’t give a damn.

Here’s why:

First, in a literal sense, we really don’t have many true needs. There are the obvious biological considerations and a few other things that Maslow explained, but that’s pretty much it. Does anyone really have “vehicle accessory needs” or “life insurance needs?” Of course not.

Second, using “needs” as a noun never adds any new meaning or clarity. And it certainly lacks any emotional resonance. Without exception, whenever “needs” is used as a noun in marketing or advertising, it can be rewritten into something better. Most of the time, the better noun is already there: “Vehicle accessories” is way better than “vehicle accessory needs.”

Plus, it just sounds stupid. Can you imagine saying, “Hey Dave! Let’s go meet our hamburger needs.”

Take a look at your stuff and make sure you eliminate all your “needs.” Your writing will instantly be better.

3 Comments + Add Comment

  • I don’t know. I think I like the sound of “meeting my hamburger needs” better than “going to McDicks”.

  • Did you major in English? I have really come to appreciate your artistic posts. I am sort of a professional writer, and have been for, oh, two or three weeks now. Your writing style kind of reminds me of my own, all the way down to your transitions and lucidity. I

    • I was an English major for about three weeks before I ultimately switched to Journalism. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site! I should have a lot more content soon!

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