I’m taking a stand at an exhibition event in a little over a week. Making your stand interesting is a challenge when you’re not selling a product. I’ve decided to get around that obstacle by offering people the opportunity to nominate the business cliché that annoys them the most.
In poll after poll, there is a certain set of culprits which set people’s teeth on edge. We help our customers swim down the sales channel; we talk about what will happen going forward and we work 24/7. All of us are guilty of using this cliches. We rely on them as crutches when other words don’t come. The very nature of a cliché is that it’s true.
Here’s a breakdown of 10 common offenders, my view of them and alternative phrases which could be used.
The classic bugbear. Going forward where, I always wonder.
Alternative: in the future, in the coming months,
Blue sky thinking.
I presume this refers to innovative or creative thinking.
Alternative: Why not just say innovative or creative thinking.
A plastic substitute for real connection between businesses
Alternative: points of connectivity, chemistry
Conjures up an image of a soulless executive in a suit, BlackBerry in one hand, paper cup of coffee in the other
Alternative: all the hours God sends. May be more unwieldy, but implies dedication. Also more accurate. No one actually works 24 hours a day.
At the end of the day
Not the worst offender in my view, but still used often enough to have lost meaning
Alternative: Ultimately, in the end
Levelling the playing field
I do think this one is quite acceptable. It’s a strong image which people can relate to.
Alternative: creates balance, evens things out
Singing from the same hymn sheet
A meaningless phrase, but not as bad as its counterpart ‘on the same page.’
Alternative: on the same wavelength, in agreement
Green shoots of recovery
An optimistic phrase, again with an image people can relate to
Alternative: signs of recovery, light on the horizon
With all due respect
Possibly the most insulting phrase ever, ostensibly used to soften the blow before launching an attack.
Alternative: None. If you feel a need to make your point, go straight for the jugular.
Content is king
Have to say I like this phrase, since it justifies my existence.
Alternative: None needed!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on which of these phrases annoy you, or indeed, any that I’ve left out. I’ve heard about a fascinating book by Jeremy Butterfield called Damp Squid, The English Language Laid Bare. It examines the tautologies and sloppy language used by public figures. The title originates from a remark by an English footballer, who referred to his Scottish opposition as a ‘damp squid!’ Don’t fall foul of such linguistic laziness. Reach for a more accurate alternative.