First up, yes, this is another referral post. LinkedIn has a pretty great post up on 16 words you should strike from your résumé, social media accounts and, yes, your LinkedIn accounts.
I’m not going to rehash what that post says here. No. Instead, I’d like to zoom in on one of the words mentioned: unique.
Jeff Haden, the original post’s author, says this:
Fingerprints are unique. Snowflakes are unique. You are unique – but your business probably isn't. That’s fine, because customers don't care about unique; they care about "better." Show you're better than the competition and in the minds of your customers you will be unique.
I agree, yes, customers care about what is “better.”
And normally I wouldn’t do a post on this single word, but it’s a word I always spike as an editor and I roll my eyes at whenever I read. But some of the comments to this piece disagreed with the author. For example: “ I might add another perspective that you do not have to be better - you have to be unique.”
The deal with the word “unique” is that it’s a placeholder for a stronger, much more descriptive adjective. Yes, we’re all different, but that is demonstrated and perceived us witnessing our differences. People are of different ethnicities — you can tell just by looking at them. You don’t have to hear them say what their ethnicity. You can tell from the age-old ocular pat-down. A simple glance will tell you what you need to know.
Nobody goes around shouting, “Hey, I’m a white guy.” Yeah, we know, we can tell. Your actions speak louder than anything else, and I can also make the case that we’re also the worst judges of our own qualities because we are sometimes self-conscious of them. We compensate for them. We try to put our best faces forward but we might be not really know what they are.
But above all else, we show how we are unique. We don’t talk about it. So show it unabashedly with the words you choose and your personality. Just don’t claim to be something and then not back it up — then you’re just trying to be something you’re not. And even that doesn’t make you unique.
And with that, I will never use the word “unique.” Again. This was sort of a record for me. And it felt weird.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.