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Words and Expressions to Avoid in Writing Articles and Essays

Updated on April 24, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish offers 25+ years successful experience in Medicine; Health- and I/O Psychology; STEM courses, and Aerospace Education (CAP).

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How Not To Drive Away Readers

Let us not drive away readers to another writer's driveway - or website or book.

Do you ever have the feeling that your readers are fleeing your work like crowds running from a disaster area? I have had that feeling once or twice.

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

Many people want to become writers these days and the Internet makes it easy to start a writing career online.We can choose from blogging to online writing communities like HubPages, 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 advertisements and through encyclopedias like Gale's from time to time.

Much of the online writing we find is what we might call "pop writing", like Pop Music enjoyed by the masses. This writing is not considered among classics of formal writing and need not be formal, but it can include tired idioms and trite refrains that are best eliminated.

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Fresh Writing Is a Tonic

A new word is like a fresh seed sewn on the ground of the discussion. — Ludwig Wittgenstein, listed in clicheandtritephrases.com.

A Freshman Composition 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." He went on to say that such trite phrases and their use is a sin against creativity.

Some other phrases prove to be equally as distressing.

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Some readers become bored with trite expressions and give up.
Some readers become bored with trite expressions and give up. | Source
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Some websites claim that only dumb or stupid people use trite phrases, but I think the use is formed as a habit. Calling someone dumb or stupid will not convince them to use other phrases.

Some Annoying Phrases

1.) Keep in mind - This seems trite and 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. It 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 (the research may turn out to be disinformation).

We have other ways of asking an audience to keep a fact at the back of their mends for reference and some of the 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 seems hackneyed. 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, _________.

Men Are Tired of Some Words

AskMen.com 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!

Synonyms For Awesome

Astonishing

Formidable

Impressive

Inspiring

Jaw dropping

Staggering

Superlative

Thaumaturgic

Transcendent

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. Never heard it before.
  • Fail/Epic Fail
  • Hipster
  • Iconic

The Weak "Period"

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.) | Source

Lack of Strength

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 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.

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

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

  • One answer was that Americans are all weirdos.
  • Another answer was that it is something only a mother would say to her child or an authority would say to a subordinate. (It is speaking down to someone.)
  • Yet another answer stated that "Period!" is a lame form of emphasis to be categorized with excessive exclamation points and all-capital letters (DON'T WRITE THIS WAY!!!!!)

Overall, 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.

...And because you have written in it.
...And because you have written in it. | Source

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:

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© 2014 Patty Inglish

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    • LeslieAdrienne profile image

      Leslie A. Shields 3 years ago from Georgia

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

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

      Your comment is Awesome! :)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

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

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Donna Brown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri

      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!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A well informed hub with many helpful ideas.

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 3 years ago from Texas

      Will think a little harder before using these trite words!

    • AVailuu profile image

      A. Cristen Vailuu 3 years ago from Augusta, Ga

      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!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

      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!

    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 3 years ago from London

      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

    • DonnaCaprio profile image

      Donna Caprio Quinlan 3 years ago from Newburyport, MA

      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.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 3 years ago from Reno NV

      Great advice thank you. Jamie

    • Joe Cinocca profile image

      Joe Cinocca 3 years ago from Pasadena

      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.

    • profile image

      Interesting... 3 years ago

      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.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E. Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      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.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

      You've just made me smile!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country

      Superb!

      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 profile image
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      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

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

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 3 years ago from France

      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 profile image
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      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

      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. :)

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

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

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

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

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

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

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      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 profile image
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      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

      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.

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      ipackrat 3 years ago

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

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

      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!

    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA

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

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      I wish you the best in writing experiences, mdscoggins!

    • rdsparrowriter profile image

      rdsparrowriter 2 years ago

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

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

      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!

    • Joyette  Fabien profile image

      Joyette Fabien 2 years ago from Dominica

      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 profile image
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      Patty Inglish 2 years ago from North America

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

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