Superlatives are the ABSOLUTE BEST!

It’s a common temptation to add qualifiers like, “very,” “really,” “super,” “amazingly,” “totally,” etc. to our descriptive words – especially when they relate to our products, services, or results. The problem is that doing this can sometimes undermine the perception of the very product, service, or result we’re trying to boost. I often see this in interviews and in professional presentations and I understand the impulse: If results are great, wouldn’t it be better to say they’re “really great?”

No. No, it wouldn’t. Here’s why: Part of the problem is that using these extra, boosting words before the descriptor can come off as disingenuous. As Queen Gertrude observes in Hamlet, overdoing it suggests, “The lady doth protest too much.” In these instances, I often want to ask, “Who are you trying to convince? Me or yourself?”

Our suspicions get aroused by this verbal tendency because of a well-researched phenomenon. When interrogated, the guilty tend to offer more information than requested. Studies show that, when someone is lying, he or she will often provide details and extras and, in so doing, give themselves away. The effect of adding superlatives or qualifiers to a strong adjective (AKA extreme) or to adjectives that cannot be qualified (AKA absolute) is overkill and can come off as dubious. Even if those listening aren’t familiar with the phenomenon; or don’t know the rules of qualifiers in these instances, something might seem off. In the case of extreme adjectives, there is already an implied “very” baked into the word. In other words, it’s already an extreme of something. In the case of absolutes, the word implies the absolute maximum of the chosen characteristic.

Here are some examples:

Extreme adjectives: these are adjectives that already mean “very” + adjective

Absolute adjectives: these are adjectives that are the ultimate of something and therefore cannot be qualified

and, everyone’s favorite:

I know, I get pretty wonky about this stuff but, hopefully, you get the idea and see why it might undermine your efforts to show enthusiasm around an idea. At best, these qualifiers are a misguided effort to place greater emphasis on a strong  point. At worst, they are a mindless but distracting habit. Either way, it’s worth trying to remove the extra qualifier and simply use the right solo adjective for the job. Try working on this by using deliberate practice for faster results!

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