Worn-Out Words and Phrases: 2017

Words and phrases are powerful tools when used correctly in the right places in a thought or idea. They can also add conversational glue among those tuned in to the buzz of a current milieu.

Yet not all words and phrases are meant to last forever. Many serve a fleeting purpose before they lose their relevance or simply become frayed from use. They’re just too du jour to outlive their trend.

In these events, we have to consider their mission accomplished and let them fade with their retirement checks in hand. If we pardon them soon enough, we can even help them depart with dignity.

We’ve all seen fashionable words and phrases cooperate in joining and then leaving our language. We’ve also witnessed ailing ones that refuse to let go. Some date from as far back as the late 1990s and early 2000s; as dried-up and tired hangers-on, they bog down what should be nimble expression.

We watch for words and phrases that look to be overstaying their welcome. By calling them out and issuing pink slips, we aim to uphold the vigor of vibrant communication.

We’ve identified the following as either no longer fit for or quickly losing their figure in fresh, lean, and clean composition. Some may still insist on loitering despite our best efforts at exclusion, but together we can help turn most of them back just by reducing their use until we no longer need them at all.

absolutely high-impact paradigm shift
alrighty then holistic pretty (as modifier)
amazing honestly really (as modifier)
at the end of the day it’s not rocket science so this happened
awesome just sayin’ synergy
by the same token literally think outside the box
cutting-edge low-key touch base
drop(ped) the ball on the same page under one roof

Weeding these from your writing and speech will help to keep it original and meaningful. Perhaps you know of yet other words and phrases that are ready for a phase-out. If so, please share them with us. We’ll review them for potential inclusion with our list of worn-out words and phrases for 2017.

Posted on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, at 8:06 am

17 Comments on Worn-Out Words and Phrases: 2017

17 responses to “Worn-Out Words and Phrases: 2017”

  1. maria says:

    I suggest adding “hate it when that happens.”

  2. Kelly Carter says:

    A phrase that is long worn out for me, but I still hear it used, is to reach out. Often, I would argue the better phrase is to talk to, contact, discuss with, meet with, etc. Why use the figurative expression to reach out unless you mean you’re going to physically touch them? [Editor’s note: our thanks to several readers who suggested reach or reaching out.]

  3. Mary Madden says:

    You’ve given us a real challenge, especially with speech. I hate hearing myself say far too frequently: absolutely, exactly, really, and others. But I find it difficult to train myself away from these old friends. For now I’ll take comfort in removing these tired old phrases from my writing. Two new phrases that I’ll be happy to see short-lived: “I mean” when they are the first words spoken; and “Let’s unpack that,” to suggest a deeper look into a topic. Thanks Grammar Book.

  4. Liz Jameson says:

    The overuse of “So” to begin a statement. Example: TV anchorperson asks an interviewee to comment on a subject, and the person begins his/her comments with “So, nuclear war is imminent.” Oftentimes, the person will say “so” many times in the response — not using it properly as to introduce a consequence. (Example: The raccoon bit Johnny Smith, so Johnny had to get rabies shots.)

  5. John Fleming says:

    What I hate, especially as a Freelance English Teacher, is ‘from the get-go’ America think. Where did this silly phrase come from ? It has crept into American and English TV programmes. I try to eradicate it and tell people to use the existing words – start, begin, starting and beginning etc. Even the English slang ‘from the off’ I feel is better.

  6. Andre says:

    I would suggest “perfect storm” is added to the list.

    Quoting Wikipedia:
    The term “perfect storm” is nearly synonymous with “worst-case scenario”, although the latter carries more of a hypothetical connotation.
    “Perfect storm” has also been used as a metaphor for a relationship such as in the popular hit songs “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry, “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift, “Perfect Storm” by Brad Paisley and “Should’ve Been Us” by Tori Kelly.
    From the beginning, the phrase was in heavy use during the financial crisis of 2007–2012, even to the point of pundits anticipating “another perfect storm”.
    The phrase was awarded the top prize by Lake Superior State University in their 2007 list of words that deserve to be banned for overuse.

  7. Jana Stephens says:

    Free and open to the public.
    A good time was had by all.
    Too much on his plate.

  8. Holly Nyquist says:

    Regarding worn out words and phrases: I am so tired of hearing that some quality is in something’s DNA. Please leave the term to science and stop its overuse as a metaphor.

  9. Buckley says:

    Here’s my list: So, like, I mean, look, man up, sure, right, hey, optics, at the end of the day, awesome, game changer, it’s all good, hope that helps, it is what it is, my bad, that’s what I’m talkin’ about, shout-out, all in, I’m just sayin’, sounds like a plan, this/that bad boy, awww!, particular, basically, each and every, having said that, wait-what.

  10. Ruthe Smith says:

    More worn-out words/phrases:
    “seriously” and “in all seriousness”
    “Look” or “Listen” – I don’t see these much in written form, but I do hear it a lot as the beginning of a rebuttal statement, as in, “Look, the data clearly show that … ” I think it shows the speaker’s frustration and comes off as aggressive.

  11. J. Dyer says:

    One of the worst offenders, often heard from online customer service employees: “reaching out”. As in “Thanks for reaching out to us” as the first line of a reply to any query or compliant.

  12. JT Mannix says:

    You’ve left out the most recent and worn out phrase: ‘reaching out,’ as in ‘thanks for reaching out.’

  13. Samuel McGill says:

    Here are two particularly annoying ones that have been around for some time but seem to be on the rise: “over and over and over again” and “time after time after time”. It apparently is no longer enough to limit it to “over and over again” or “time after time”. Advanced addicts to these phrases will even add a fourth “and over” and “after time”. I believe it is the same mindset that gave us “I agree 150%” and “I gave it 200%”.

    On another note, at least “24-7” seems to have died down a good bit. That was getting to be very old, especially when some folks insisted on stretching it to “24-7-365”.

    Love your newsletter!

  14. Colin Swanwick says:

    Two more for your list:
    Impact/ impacted, when used as a verb in the wrong context, and issue, when used incorrectly for a problem.

  15. Viet Tran says:

    Agree with you, absolutely … ooopppsss ., I mean completely !

  16. How about, “so not?” That is so not the way to write.
    The phrase I’m really tired of is, “I know. Right?”
    I’m so glad you included, “at the end of the day.”
    Thanks for this list.

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