Monthly Archives: May 2013

More clichés

Thanks to you, my helpful readers, I have another list of clichés for your consideration. (Please consider abandoning use of these beauties.)

With that said

It is what it is

Pull the trigger

Sense of urgency

Walk it back

Walk it through

Turn the corner

Let’s all turn the corner and pull the trigger on this jargon. Use clear, straightforward language to make your points. Your readers will thank you.


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Clichés were fresh the first few times they were used—but because they were new and interesting they caught on like a house afire and became overused and trite.


Cute as a button, cool as a cucumber, shiny as a new penny, hungry as a horse, fat as a pig—those are all old hat, very old hat.


The business world is riddled with clichés. Here is a list of ones to avoid; I’m sure you can think of dozens more. Send your candidates to me, and I’ll run them up the flagpole and see if they fly.




Needless to say


First and foremost


Last but not least


Few and far between


Get the ball rolling


The bottom line


At the end of the day


Fall on deaf ears


Fly in the face of


The lion’s share


By the same token




Don’t rock the boat


Sweep under the rug


The powers that be


When the dust settles


In the nick of time


That insults the intelligence


World class


State of the art


Cutting edge


Hit it out of the park


Back in the day





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Anxious vs. Eager

It’s not uncommon for people to write something like this:

“I’m anxious to know how your important new job is going.”

In fact, “anxious” means experiencing worry or unease about a situation that might be negative.  It is possible that the person’s new job might not be working out so well, but chances are the speaker/writer meant “eager,” meaning to show keen interest.

English: An anxious person

English: An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Who You Callin’ “Gentleman”?

English: Cover of The Country Gentleman magazi...

English: Cover of The Country Gentleman magazine, April 20, 1918 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Gentleman” is not a synonym for just any man or male. It specifically refers to a noble or at least an honorable man, not just any human with XY chromosomes. And yet a day rarely passes that I don’t hear this word misused:

“The driver was clocked at 80 mph in the residential neighborhood and finally came to a stop when he crashed into a brick wall. The gentleman exited the vehicle and was placed under arrest.”

“The gentleman exited the vehicle.”  (How about “The driver/man got out of the car”?)  Chances are someone who endangers people by driving recklessly is no gentleman.

Similarly, “lady” is also misused in a parallel way, although not as frequently.  There is a difference between “lady,” “woman” and “female.”  Words have connotations that directly affect your writing.

As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”  Aim for lightning.

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Sentence and Paragraph Length

To hold your readers’ attention, you want variety in the length of your sentences: some short, some medium, and even the occasional long one. But the more complicated your content is, the shorter your sentences should be.  Instead of one long sentence explaining a difficult point, break it down into two or even more sentences.

Big blocks of gray print put people off. Look at a newspaper (quick, while they still exist) and notice how short each paragraph is. If several of those were combined, readers would likely give up before starting to read the articles, merely because of the way the print looks on the page. White space invites your readers in; those big gray chunks of print turn them off.

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Words to Eliminate

“The dealership is holding a sales event over Memorial Day weekend.”

“Yesterday’s rain event in Oklahoma caused widespread flooding. However, tomorrow should bring only minimal shower activity.”

“The defense attorney cited acts of an inflammatory nature.”

“The drought condition has many farmers concerned.”

“The police responded to an emergency situation at the rest stop.”

Events, situations, conditions, and activities are almost always fillers used to make something sound more impressive (but not very effectively). Whenever you use one of those words, see if you can’t reword your sentence more concisely:

That dealership is holding a sale. The report was about yesterday’s rain in Oklahoma. The prospect for tomorrow is merely showers. Those farmers are worried about the drought, and the police officers responded to an emergency.

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Repetitive Redundancies

I  hope and trust you realize and understand the subject line above is a kidding joke.  So many phrases we hear and read daily are redundant, but we rarely have the awareness to eliminate them; we have gotten used to them.  Are any of these your favorites?


The end result


A contributing factor


Face up to the problem


Suffocated to death


Modest about himself


Own her own home


Revert back


Shrug her shoulders, nod her head


New developments


Proceed onward


Jewish rabbi


Future plans


Easter Sunday


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