Looking through a copy of Real Simple while getting my hair cut, I came across these suggestions from five people highly concerned with language. See how many you hear and use:
1. “It is what it is.” John McWhorter, a linguistic professor at Columbia University and the author of several books on language (my favorite being Word on the Street), says this sentence is a cruel response. If someone has revealed a difficult situation and you reply, “It is what it is,” you are offering no empathy, no suggestions, nothing but a dismissal. You are saying nothing is to be done. That may be the case, but empathy is what the speaker is looking for.
2. “To your point” is the suggestion of Nancy Gibbs, editor of Time magazine. She asserts that people use this wording not to agree with what has been said but in fact to make a contradictory point. If you’re going to disagree, say so: “I see your point, but I cannot agree with it.”
3. “Don’t take this personally” comes from Peggy Newfield, a specialist in business etiquette. No matter what follows that admonition, the receiver is going to take it personally. What you say may be very hurtful. Think before you give advice and choose your words carefully.
4.Whenever you ask, “When are you going to…?” you are pointing out something you feel the other person hasn’t yet done but should do. “When are you going to have a baby?” “When are you going to find someone to settle down with?” “When are you going to buy a house?” Questions like these make the recipient defensive. The answers to these questions are really none of your business. So says Emily Yoffee, who writes the “Dear Prudence” advice column.
5. “No problem.” This is a major peeve of mine and of Liv Tyler, the actor, who has written a book with her mother, called Modern Manners. You have just said “Thank you,” and you get “No problem” for a reply. Saying thanks is not a problem. What happened to “You’re welcome” or “My pleasure?”