Words make a huge impact...unless they're overused.

Even the most descriptive and meaningful words lose all meaning when they're used too often. Clichés, hyperbole, and buzzwords may sound impressive, but over time--since everyone uses them--they mean nothing.

For example, if you see the word "extensive," you don't immediately think, "Awesome! A comprehensive suite of services covering a broad range of applications!"

Nope. Instead you skim right over the word since you've seen it thousands of times in the same context. "Extensive" is used so often it's just filler.

So with that in mind, here are the 10 most overused words and phrases from LinkedIn profiles in 2014 (along with my thoughts on each.) Take a look, and then think hard about swapping them out of your profile--and your website, marketing, and other company communications.

1. Motivated

Check out Chris Rock's response (not safe for work) to people who say they take care of their kids. Then substitute a word like "motivated."

Never take credit for things you are supposed to do--or supposed to be.

2. Passionate

Claim you're incredibly passionate about incorporating an elegant design aesthetic in everyday objects and--to me at least--you sound a little scary.

Same if you're passionate about minimizing WIP. Or maximizing ROVA.

So why do so many people use "passionate"? My guess is they think, "OK, how can I set myself apart...how can I show that I'm way more into (this) than anyone else...what's the one word that will put me over the top? I know: passionate!"

And then they've actually gone over the top.

Use "focus," "concentrate," or "specialize" instead. Better yet, share results that show just how focused you are.

3. Creative

In 2011 and 2012, "creative" was the most used word in LinkedIn profiles; in 2013 it ranked third.

Creative is a great example of a word used so often that it no longer makes an impact. If you're creative, describe what you've created--if it's cool enough, everyone will know just how creative you really are.

4. Driven

Maybe you're data driven. (Wow, you try to objectively think through decisions?) Or maybe you're customer driven. (Wow, you try to please the people that pay you?)

Or maybe you're just plain old driven driven.

No matter what the form, driven is like "motivated." Or "inspired." It's filler.

Stop using it.

5. Extensive experience

Say you have "extensive experience in Web design." Fine...but how long you've been doing it indicates nothing: You could be the worst programmer in the world.

What matters more is what you've done: how many sites you've created, how many back-end systems you've installed, how many customer-specific applications you've developed (and what kind)....

Don't tell us how long you've been doing it. Tell us what you've done.

6. Responsible

"Responsible" cuts two ways. You can be responsible (but hopefully isn't everyone?) or you can be responsible for (which is just a boring way of saying, hopefully, that you did something).

If you're in social-media marketing, don't say you're "responsible for social campaigns;" say you grew conversions by 40 percent using social channels. "Responsible" is a great example of passive language begging to become active.

Don't tell us what you're responsible for. Tell us what you've done. Achievements are always more impressive.

7. Strategic

A strategic decision is one that is based on the big picture. Shouldn't everyone be able to make decisions based on more than what is right in front of them?

"Strategic" is a close cousin of "strategist," another buzzword that bugs me. I sometimes help manufacturing plants improve their productivity and quality. There are strategies I use to identify areas for improvement...but I'm in no way a "strategist." Strategists look at the present, envision something new, and develop approaches to make their vision a reality. I don't create something new; I apply my experience and a few proven methodologies to make improvements.

Very few people are strategists. Most "strategists" are actually coaches, specialists, or consultants who use what they know to help others. Ninety-nine percent of the time, that's what customers need--they don't want, or even need, a strategist.

8. Track record

We all have a track record. It may be good, it may be bad, but we all have one. (And they're all "proven.")

I actually like what "track record" implies: you've done stuff, hopefully awesome stuff. You've gotten results, made things happen, come through in the clutch...so share a few facts and figures instead.

Describe on-time performance rates, or waste percentages, or under-budget statistics...let your track record be proven by your achievements.

9. Organizational

Clearly this word is followed by another word: organizational development, organizational optimization, organizational behavior, organizational values, organizational communication....

Let's stop there before we both nod off.

10. Expert

As Margaret Thatcher once said, "Power is like being a lady; if you have to say you are, you aren't."

"Expert" is one of those things it's great to be called...but that you should never claim to be.

For example, unless you can prove it, "social-media marketing expert" might simply mean you spend way too much time obsessing over your Klout score. (Wait, does anyone worry about those anymore?)

Again, show your expertise. Let us call you an expert...because when we do, that's when we'll actually call you.

Published on: Jan 20, 2015
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.