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The World’s Most Irritating Phrases
Article reproduced with permission from The Plain English Campaign
At the end of the day… we’re fed up with clichés!
So says The Plain English Campaign.
Plain English supporters around the world have voted “At the end of the day” as the most irritating phrase in the language.
Second place in the vote was shared by “At this moment in time” and the constant use of “like” as if it were a form of punctuation. “With all due respect” came fourth.
The Plain English Campaign (an independent pressure group launched on 26 July 1979) surveyed its 5000 supporters in more than 70 countries as part of the build-up to its 25th anniversary.
Spokesman John Lister said over-used phrases were a barrier to communication. “When readers or listeners come across these tired expressions, they start tuning out and completely miss the message – assuming there is one! Using these terms in daily business is about professional as wearing a novelty tie or having a wacky ringtone on your phone.
The following terms also received multiple nominations in the survey to find the most irritating phrases:
- address the issue
- around (in place of “about”)
- ballpark figure
- basis (“on a weekly basis” in place of “weekly” and so on)
- bear with me
- between a rock and a hard place
- blue sky (thinking)
- boggles the mind
- bottom line
- crack troops
- diamond geezer
- epicentre (used incorrectly)
- glass half full (or half empty)
- going forward
- I hear what you’re saying..
- in terms of…
- it’s not rocket science
- move the goal-posts
- pushing the envelope
- singing from the same hymn sheet
- the fact of the matter is
- thinking outside the box
- to be honest/to be honest with you/to be perfectly honest
- touch base
- up to (in place of “about”)
- value-added (in general use)
In the weekly e-newsletter from The Plain English Campaign, they reported:
The widespread coverage of the survey (including an appearance on the front page of The Times and national television pieces on BBC1, BBC News 24 and Sky News) suggests we have struck a nerve, opened a can of worms, heard what people are saying, scored a home run, and any other cliché you wish to use!
John Lister took part in interviews for radio stations in Ireland, Canada, the United States, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Given the subject, it’s probably not surprising that only one presenter ended an interview with the phrase we hear so often in these situations: “more power to your elbow”.
We received so many suggestions since publishing the list that we are thinking of holding a similar survey each year to see which of today’s fresh buzzwords have become tomorrow’s tired clichés.
We also received several emails that simply read “Get a life.” We’re not sure if these were intended to be general comments about us or nominations for clichés!
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Shirley is a high-energy, high-content speaker who is passionate about motivating individuals to make a real difference in our automated world. With inspiring stories and a fun style, she engages audiences quickly, and encourages them to embrace high-touch as well as high-tech so they can connect with heart.
Shirley has been a trusted member of the professional speaking and training community for many years, and has received several awards for her services in leadership. She served as Asia Professional Speakers Singapore President 2011-12 and as Global Speakers Federation President 2017-18. She has spoken in almost 20 countries all over the world.
Author of 12 books published by international publishers, Shirley has established herself as a leading authority in workplace communication, business writing, and email. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition has sold over half a million copies worldwide and been translated into 17 languages.
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