Words and phrases people should stop using

January 23, 2013 § 9 Comments

…and what they should say instead.

Been away from the ether for a while. Time to ease back in with some light relief.

I used to be an English teacher, and I love playing with language. Words do change, but it saddens me when some get so over-used that they fail to mean anything anymore. I’m not really this bitter, and of course I don’t shout at the radio. But just writing them down makes me feel better. Shout back at me if you want. Or add your own. I’m sure there are more of these

Iconic. Just say ‘special’, or ‘distinctive’. But not ‘unique’ (see below)

(Steep) learning curve. Just say you ‘have a lot to learn’.

Going forward. Just say ‘the future’, or ‘from now on’.

Passionate (as in ‘I am passionate about providing customer service’). ‘Committed’ will do fine.

Overestimate/Underestimate. Or if you do, get it right. They aren’t interchangeable.

(At the beginning of an answer) So. Just don’t use it.

(At the beginning of an answer) I think. Of course you do. That’s why you are about to say what you are about to say.

Imply, when you mean infer. And infer when you mean imply.

Disconnect (as a noun). Don’t know why. It just annoys me.

Mercury (for temperature – a favourite in newspaper weather reporting). Just say ‘temperature’. By the way, why does cold always ‘snap’ and heat always ‘wave’?

Bellweather. Just say barometer. Or indicator. Or predictor.

Multitask. OK, you can do more than one thing at once. Don’t dignify it with jargon.

One hundred and ten percent. Just say ‘totally committed’. Or ‘completely’.

Absolutely. When you mean ‘yes’, or ‘I agree’.

Unique. When you mean ‘special’ or ‘distinctive’. Something isn’t ‘quite unique’.

Free, gratis and for nothing. What’s that about?

Community. When you mean ‘people who are’ or ‘people who like’


That is all. Come to think of it, that’s a phrase to stop using too. Oh dear.

§ 9 Responses to Words and phrases people should stop using

  • Matthew Hallett says:

    I would disagree with one. I’ve never had a loved one compliment me on my “committed” kissing, nor would I want to be! There are times and places for the passionate amongst us to oust the committed!

  • Rebecca Swinson says:

    Overuse (and misuse) of the word ‘literally’ is something I am finding increasingly annoying.

  • Thanks both. Matthew – you’re right, in that I should have specified when ‘passionate’ works and when it doesn’t. It should never appear in a CV…

  • David Lee says:

    Surely not defending “committed”? It is vacuous management-speak: “We are committed to leveraging synergies for strategisation of scalability, pushing the envelope through the window of opportunity, whilst taking a helicopter view of low-hanging fruit.”

  • Lou Henderson says:

    Friendly neighbourhood pedant here: ‘bellwether’ has nothing to do with meteorology. A wether is a castrated ram, and the bellwether is the flock’s leading sheep – with a bell around his neck. Its figurative use as ‘predictor’ is, as far as I know, confined to those swing states which nearly always end up in the winner’s column in US presidential elections.

  • Mike Parsons says:

    How about ‘disgusting’? Rarely implies makes me want to vomit!

  • val clarke says:

    I absolutely agree about absolutely instead of yes, it drives me mad when I hear it but I still find myself using it, so annoying!

  • The use of the phrase “Let’s be clear” by politicians at the beginning of a sentence when being interviewed. They obviously to want to sound authoritative with their ‘definitive’ answer or statement. It can sound arrogant and condescending. Some have probably just picked it up from those they admire; others actually mean “our official line is…” or “what I’ve been told to say is…”

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