5 Non-Existent Words That Make YOU Look a Halfwit Copywriter

Halfwit copywriter looking befuddledAre you a stickler for grammar? Or someone who couldn’t care less as long as your copy sells?

Whatever the case, one thing’s for sure:

The last thing you want as a copywriter is to look an idiot.

Because when you look an idiot then so do your clients. And that’s bad for business.

Now this isn’t some kind of spelling or grammar lecture.

Far from it.

High-quality content is so much more than simply following standard writing principles.

What’s more, English is a living language that’s continually evolving, where new words and phrases are entering our vocabulary all the time.

And so the notion that many of our new words and phrases are somehow bad English is, to me, utterly ridiculous.

But …

At the same time, there comes a point where every writer and editor has to draw the line.

These are the words and phrases that:

  • Really do NOT exist
  • Will NEVER exist (by virtue of their stupidity)
  • Are blatant incorrect use of English
  • Will make any copywriter who uses them look like a clown

Here’s a selection of just five of the very worst offenders, although it has to be said there are many more:

Fine Toothcomb

As it happens, there is such a thing as a toothcomb and it refers to a comb-like dental arrangement found in certain animals. But one thing it definitely isn’t and that’s something for combing teeth.

What, of course, the writer actually means is a fine-toothed comb, namely something that conveys the idea of going through things in fine detail.

On Tenderhooks

In times gone by, new cloth was hung out and stretched, or suspended, on a frame in order to prevent it from shrinking. This was known as tenting, because of the similarities to a tent. And the hooks used were known as tenterhooks.

So now you know the background to the phrase, there’s no excuse for incorrectly writing on tenderhooks ever again.


You often see the phrase a much sort-after location in property sales literature. But when you go in quest of something, you seek after it not sort after it.

So quite clearly the correct term to refer to something in demand is sought-after.

In the Throws Of

The correct form is in the throes of and it comes from the rather archaic word throe, which means a violent pain or struggle.

So when you’re in the throes of something, you’re going to considerable pain or effort to get through it.


You can say either regardless or irrespective. But one thing you cannot say is irregardless. If you do, you just end up looking stupid.

Now the most basic task of any copywriter is to clearly explain what’s on offer and why the target reader would want it. But all this is pointless if you undermine your trust and credibility with non-existent halfwit words and phrases.

And here’s the added bonus:

By avoiding these mistakes, not only will your writing sell more – but you’ll also keep the annoying grammar police off your back.

Have your say

What do you think? Tell us in the comment section below. Or suggest other non-existent words and phrases you’d like to add to our list.

In our next post: Not sure whether to have a blog or news feed as part of your content generation strategy? Our 3-point checklist will help you choose.

Blogger ProfileAbout the Author

Kevin Carlton of Write Online is an IT copywriter and blogger based in Staffordshire in the UK. He is owner of freelance copywriting service Write Online, which helps technology companies get the most out of their online presence.

You can follow him on X or connect with him on LinkedIn.