Most Irritating Business Cliches

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.

Going forward

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.

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About writerlyderv

Addicted to writing. Passionate about helping people tell their story. Writer, editor, creative writing tutor and trainer. Have a look at my website, www.writewordseditorial.ie to find out more.

7 comments on “Most Irritating Business Cliches

  1. One I cannot abide is we want someone who can get this “hit the ground running”? Who the hell can do that, apart from a cat!

  2. How about: State-of-the-art; A window of opportunity; Cutting edge technology;
    Blue riband company, etc. Such meaningless muck!

  3. Love this post Derbhile, see my own version below. One of our most popular posts of all time!


  4. Firstly, thanks for the help avoiding these aborent phrases. A few more that wind me up are “under-pinned”, “in terms of” and every politician starting their sentences with “Look..” that really winds me up too! I blame Tony Blaire for that one.

  5. One thing that is nails on a chalk board for me is when after a usually long dissertation in a business meeting, a person says, “having said that” and then goes into another long winded closing.

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