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Words and Expressions to Avoid in Writing
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.
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 clicheandtritephrases.com.
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.
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...
- 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
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!
Google Fight (a Word Fight)
- Google Fight : make a fight with Googlefight
Research triteness -- Compare how often each of two words or phrases is used in Google Search results..
People are Tired of Awesome
Synonyms for "Awesome":
Well, like, you know, that was like, you know, like great!— AskMen.com: 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.
- Look <or> Now look
- Delivery. Example: "project delivery."
- Amazeballs. Means amazing. (I never heard it before.)
- Fail. Epic Fail.
Squawk, squawk, squawk - Period!
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.
- Americans are all weirdos.
- It is something only a mother would say to her child or an authority would say to a subordinate (speaking down to someone).
- "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:
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