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Words and Expressions to Avoid in Writing

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

Avoid Driving Away Your Readers

Let us not drive away readers to another writer's website, book, or article!

Do you ever have the feeling that your readers are fleeing your work like crowds running from a disaster area? It is not a productive feeling and reflects a possible problem with the writing. However, this situation can be remedied.

Make your readers more receptive to your writing by avoiding a few words and phrases that are trite or off putting.

Don't cause your readers to run away.

Don't cause your readers to run away.

Since the internet became easily accessible to the public circa 1996, increasing numbers of people have become online writers.

The internet makes it easy: We can choose blogging, e-books, online writing communities, article directories, product review sites, book and film review bulletin boards, poetry forums, and other designations.

In addition, freelance writing and editing work is available through online job ads.

Much of the online writing we find is "pop writing"; and much misinformation fills the World Wide Web. Further, it can include tired idioms and trite refrains that are best eliminated.

A new word is like a fresh seed sewn on the ground of the discussion.

— Ludwig Wittgenstein, in

Fresh Writing is a Tonic

A Freshman Composition 101 instructor, Dr. K. Wheeler has taught successfully in Washington, Oregon, Texas, and Tennessee. In his classroom handouts he wrote this opinion about the worst cliches and trite phrases seen among college freshmen:

The worst cliches or trite phrases:

"Students who begin their papers with phrases like, since the dawn of time or throughout the history of mankind...such trite phrases are a sin against creativity."

Some other phrases prove to be equally as distressing.

Some websites claim that only "dumb" or "stupid" people use trite phrases, but I think the use of hackneyed phrases is formed out of habit. Calling someone "dumb" or "stupid" will not convince them to use other, fresher phrases.

Some Annoying Phrases

1. Keep in mind...

This phrases is a headache! It seems not only trite, but almost rudely superior.

I notice that writers that creates a lot of 200-word ads for online content use this phrase a lot, spilling it over to personal conversations.

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Such use is off-putting. It sounds like a supposed "expert" or know-it-all who actually may have had to look up information in order to express an opinion.

We have other ways of asking an audience to keep a fact at the back of their minds for reference and future use. Some examples are:

  • Kindly remember...
  • Take into account...
  • Consider...
  • Entertain the notion that...
  • Acknowledging the fact that...

You may have other good ideas about substitute phrases. You might also bring up Google Fight, a word fight game not related to the Google company, and compare two phrases or words for the number of results they bring up on Google Search. If one entry has many more hits than the other, it might be trite.

2. That being said...

This phrase has been overused since the 1990s, when it was first overused in workplace seminars.

We might try some of the following phrases with the "that" portion in its stead:

  • Although: Although North Dakota has potential for 500 more oil wells, Texans feel they need the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline northern leg.
  • However: The Midwest receive much snow during the winter of 2013 - 2014. However, climate warming trends remain in tact.
  • Even though...
  • On the contrary...
  • We have previously seen that _____. However, _________.

3. I say this to say that...

This phrase is overused and sounds stilted. It is best eliminated altogether.

Men Are Tired of Some Words begs people not to use the word awesome so much. However, mega-successful The Lego Movie (2014) says that Everything is Awesome and has a multi-award winning song to that effect, so no dice on that one.

Out of a top 10 irksome words that AskMen want to see banned is the term "like", as in:

Well, like, you know, that was like, you know, like great!

Google Fight (a Word Fight)

Well, like, you know, that was like, you know, like great!

— Stop saying that!

In Great Britain, Words Get Old, Too

BBC News Magazine has a list of words they would rather not see or hear again. Thy are found in the publication called "List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness". Some of them are:

  • Twerk. I suppose articles for and against this dance sequencer are forboden.
  • Selfie
  • Look <or> Now look
  • Robust
  • Delivery. Example: "project delivery."
  • Amazeballs. Means amazing. (I never heard it before.)
  • Fail. Epic Fail.
  • Hipster
  • Iconic

Squawk, squawk, squawk - Period!

Don't use annoying words -- PERIOD! (See how annoying that is? -- even from the wise owl.)

Don't use annoying words -- PERIOD! (See how annoying that is? -- even from the wise owl.)

Many people would like to remove the "Period!" from the exclamations listed below and contribute some instructive words of their own.

  • The Earth is flat - Period!
  • Republicans are corrupt - Period!
  • Democrats are communists - Period!

These phrases lack strength of validity but have strength of alienation.

They are off putting, because they sound conceited and do not allow a response or room for thought. The speakers or writers of such sentences are usually not at all the experts they feel they are.

The use of "Period!" as a phrase of power and a prohibition against the reader or listener to disagree or present questions turns me against the rest of the article, book, debate, or lecture I am experiencing.

Instead of power, it shows lack of strength of the argument in most instances of its use, even though the user feels that it presents a strength. The emphasis may be useful as an emotional hook in a political speech, but may drive off readers of essays and articles. In a formal academic essay, it would at least be marked down for poor grammar.

Speaking down to readers is not useful, especially when one adds the "Period!" emphasis at the end of a statement that is incorrect or cannot be proven.

On a Yahoo online discussion bulletin board, a European asked why Americans seem to use "Period!" a lot.

Answers included:

  1. Americans are all weirdos.
  2. It is something only a mother would say to her child or an authority would say to a subordinate (speaking down to someone).
  3. "Period!" is a lame form of emphasis to be categorized with excessive exclamation points and all-capital letters (DON'T WRITE THIS WAY - PERIOD!!!!!)

Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.

— Frank Lloyd Wright

Some Cautions On Sources and References

One perturbing finding on the Internet is that Wikipedia has been inadvertently involved in non-publicized hidden payments for editing its articles and this is leading to proposed policy pages. "Everyone" thought the website encyclopedia was free overall. This leads one to wonder further about bias in Internet resources.

A related Wikipedia quote:

Foundation takes aim at undisclosed paid editing -- The Wikimedia Foundation has proposed to modify the Wikimedia projects' Terms of use to specifically ban undisclosed paid editing...

I applaud the move to eliminate undisclosed paid editing, but paid editing or not, the articles are not peer reviewed, sometimes contain errors, and are not accepted as references in most K-12, college, and graduate level classrooms.

A citing of Wikipedia materials would automatically lead to rejection of a master's thesis or PhD dissertation.However, the references listed for Wikipedia articles make a good starting pint for research.

Most of the images in Wikimedia Commons are useful and provide accurate citation information, although I've found a few that were actually copyrighted and placed there as usable on commercial sites like HubPages without permission from the owner. This could simply have been error. I like to use Wikimedia Commons. for instance, here is an appropriate illustration of cliches and trite expressions:

© 2014 Patty Inglish MS


Ken Avery on February 01, 2019:

May I just say that the word, "like," is in a lot of ways, such a Vocal Monster in that many 20ish people live by this word and they are already heading into their freshman years of college.

"Like," okay. Like what? What are you comparing "like" to? If someone would please explain this . . .I will be happy.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 01, 2014:

Every few months, I learn new vocabulary words and better phrases to use, but it is easy to fall into old habits!

Joyette Helen Fabien from Dominica on December 01, 2014:

Very useful information. It's so easy to fall into the snare of using trite words and tired expressions without even realizing. This hub calls upon writers to pay closer attention to their diction. Thanks for sharing.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 05, 2014:

Thanks for reading! I think we, as writers, need continually to improve our skills in order to be understood through language use and to avoid driving readers away!

Rochelle Ann De Zoysa from Moratuwa, Sri Lanka on July 04, 2014:

Interesting and useful information :) Thank you for sharing :)

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 10, 2014:

I wish you the best in writing experiences, mdscoggins!

Michelle Scoggins from Fresno, CA on June 10, 2014:

Very well written and helpful as I look forward to writing more hubs of my own.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 08, 2014:

Thank you, ipackrat! I'm happy if this Hub helps you increase your writing skills so that more people will read your work. I have to keep improving, too!

ipackrat on May 08, 2014:

This is easily one of my favorite hubs, I actually learned something useful, thanks!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 15, 2014:

Hi, teaches12345 - Guilty here as well, but no more, until the next round of phrases gets old. I think that every year we collect a new load of trite phrases and must make an effort to avoid them when we begin to see and hear them everywhere. If we don't, I think we can begin to sound dated and stale or even rude in some cases.

Dianna Mendez on March 15, 2014:

Thank you for the reminder of what is considered proper when speaking and writing. I am afraid that I may have used some of these at one time or another. It's interesting to know what the Queen's English allows.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 06, 2014:

Thank you, Maren Morgan M-T! I've have indeed seen some articles that mention that.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 06, 2014:

Thank you, Maren Morgan M-T! I've have indeed seen some articles that mention that.

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on March 06, 2014:

Let's add "literally" as an adverb used to mean truly. It is redundant.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 03, 2014:

Hi Princessa! Your Hubs always sound fine to me. Google Fight is fun - It doesn't always show that an expression is actually trite, but definitely shows its usage in Google Results. It that looks like too many times for a phrase or cliché, I like to use something else. :)

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on March 03, 2014:

For a non-native English speaker like me, this hub is a great resource. I also enjoyed the Google Fight site, I have already put it in my favourite list.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 03, 2014:

That is a good idea, Rochelle -- Thanks for posting that message. Let's think up some new ones!

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on March 02, 2014:


I had a high school English teacher who said we should all aim to "invent new cliches". His point being, that the currently overused ones were quite original and thought-provoking when they were originally used.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 02, 2014:

You've just made me smile!

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on March 02, 2014:

Patty, if you never achieve anything else in life, you can take comfort in the distinction of being the only person to ever move me to look up the meaning of "thaumaturgic." Thanks for an interesting, if not quite thaumaturgic (miracle making) hub.

Interesting... on March 02, 2014:

Here's something from Yahoo Small Business Advisor that says trite wording is disrespectful to the audience:

Cliches - These are those metaphors that have been used so frequently that all the juice has been leeched from them. Examples: "out-of-the-box thinking" or "hitting one out of the ballpark." Clichés aren't just unoriginal but also reveal a lack of respect for the listener. If you really cared, you wouldn't trot out these creaky phrases.

Joe Cinocca from Pasadena on March 02, 2014:

This is fantastic! I don't profess to be a formal writer, but the tips and recommendations are stellar. Google Fight has made my day! Great resource. Thanks for writing this article.

Jamie Lee Hamann from Reno NV on February 27, 2014:

Great advice thank you. Jamie

Donna Caprio Quinlan from Newburyport, MA on February 27, 2014:

Patty - thanks for an informative article. My goal is for my writing to improve as time goes on. Reading articles like yours help. I didn't know that schools did not allow Wikipedia to be used as a reference. Google Fight is also new to me.

Diana Grant from London on February 27, 2014:

I enjoyed reading this - very sensible advice. Sometimes when writing, it's quite hard to decide whether a phrase is a cliché and somewhat trite, or you fail to notice it, whereas it jumps out at you when somebody else has written it

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 27, 2014:

Thank you all for reading this Hub: I hope it reminds us all of some important points. I also have made some of the mistakes listed, so I am with you all. Sometimes, I read an old article I've written and simply cringe.

Happy writing, Everyone!

Ashley Vailu'u from Central Texas on February 27, 2014:

I love this article! It's clever, lighthearted tone gives your hubber audience a lot of practical and applicable advice. I had to take a minute and check out the "Google fight" website... I never knew anything like it existed, but I'm sure it helps a lot. I know that one of my biggest obstacles I face in writing is word selection (followed by comma splices). Thank you for the resource!

Joanie Ruppel from Texas on February 27, 2014:

Will think a little harder before using these trite words!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 27, 2014:

A well informed hub with many helpful ideas.

Cygnet Brown from Springfield, Missouri on February 27, 2014:

I don't see a lot of what you wrote about in my hubs, but I am guilty of doing some of it in comments. When a person writes a hub like this one, I often have to step back and examine my own writing, so I guess, all I can really say is Thanks Period!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 27, 2014:

Refreshing and relevant. I'm guilt of using one of the phrases you mentioned. Not anymore! Thank you.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 26, 2014:

Your comment is Awesome! :)

Leslie A. Shields from Georgia on February 26, 2014:

Very nice Hub... Glad you wrote it....

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