The world has gone cliché mad. I’m starting a mission to eradicate the cliché from our modern business dialogue! I do a lot of writing and at the end of the day (most hated cliché) I’m as guilty as the next man (another cliché) of over using them.

I just pasted one of my old blogs into a “cliché finder” and nearly died of embarrassment (another cliché). It’s a lot harder than it looks (another cliché) to write or talk without them don’t you know?

The definition of a cliché is “A trite or overused expression or idea” and they are ubiquitous. Football commentary is littered with them. If you took them out of the commentary, there would be no commentary.

In business the over use of clichés by leaders and managers can be career limiting (damn is that yet another one?) and risks the person involved becoming a cliché themselves!

Over use of the word ‘basically’ has made it one of the most hated in business and I teach people to replace the word with ‘essentially’. The problem is that the word ‘essentially’ when over used will just replace ‘basically’ as a cliché.

Recognise these clichés from your own writing and dialogue? These are just some of the most hated:

  • “To be fair”
  • “At the end of the day”
  • “To be honest”
  • “Going forward”
  • “We are where we are”
  • “The fact of the matter is”
  • “Let’s face it”
  • “Let’s be honest”
  • “Touch base”
  • “In the pipeline”
  • “The reason being”
  • “I’m not being funny but”
  • “By the end of play”

So, is my mission to eradicate clichés impossible? Am I on a hiding to nothing? Do I have more chance of winning the lottery? STOP IT! STOP IT!

Here are my top tips to avoid using clichés?

  • Read any written work thoroughly before you send it and reword any obvious clichés
    • “Pros and cons” can become “advantages and disadvantages” or “costs and benefits”
    • “By the end of play today” becomes simply “by tonight”
    • Rather than refer to just “people”, which ones? Be specific
    • “This day & age” can be replaced by simply “today” or “presently”
  • Clichés often occur when we are trying to emphasise a point or be overly descriptive, so instead make your writing clear and less ‘flowery’
  • Use a thesaurus to find alternative and less used words BUT be careful, less used words may be misunderstood and could confuse your reader
  • To avoid clichés when speaking is harder as we sometimes don’t even notice our over used words. Ask colleagues to tell you if they notice any ‘word habits’ you have that they find annoying. Record yourself in meetings and listen back, it will be painful at times but it is a great way to learn
  • Take longer to think before you speak, it only takes a fraction of a second to rehearse something in your head before you open your mouth

I wanted to end this piece with a final statement free from clichés but I’m finding it so hard! Welcomes and goodbyes are by their very nature clichés and therefore impossible to avoid. The trick is to avoid the annoying ones!

The End.

Thank you for reading.

Stuart Allen ~ MD of The Sales Performance Company Ltd

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