Still on the Stakeout for Worn-Out Words and Phrases

Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2018, at 11:00 pm

Last year we waded into the weeds of worn-out words and phrases: the verbal components that appear fresh and assimilate well in language until their nature is revealed.

At first they might look just like the grass that surrounds them, but in time they disrupt communication with buzz words and catch phrases that impose on the lush lawn of expression.

An evolutionary entity, communication will always require invention, addition, and subtraction. However, it also still needs periodic purging of the hangers-on that compromise precision and originality. We can all contribute to more weed-free discourse by knowing and excluding worn-out words and phrases.

This subject has proven to be so relevant that we addressed it three times in 2017:

Worn-Out Words and Phrases
Worn-Out Words and Phrases (Follow-up)
Worn-Out Words and Phrases: Resolving to Keep Writing Fresh in 2018

The list continues to grow as we remain on the lookout. We wish to thank the many readers who share their observations about language that has outlived or is outliving its welcome. The following are new entries gathered from reader correspondence so far in 2018.

Worn-Out Word/Phrase Problem Beyond Overuse Alternatives in Careful Writing
all in (adj. phrase) This phrase actually offers economy by shortening expressions such as “engaged” or “participating”; in this case, overuse is the main problem (use more sparingly)
at this point in time
(adv. phrase)
wordy now, currently, presently
each and every
(adj. phrase)
wordy; it double-dips into enumerating adjectives where one will suffice each, every, all
game changer
(noun phrase)
trendy catch phrase meaning a new element or factor that notably changes an existing situation or activity crossroad, twist, tiltpoint
give a shout/holler
(verb phrase)
wordy, overly casual alert, notify, contact
having said that
(participial phrase)
expendable filler (strike as unnecessary) or thus, therefore, accordingly
hope that helps
(verb phrase)
(overuse is the main problem) (use more sparingly)
I agree 100% [or greater amount] (verb clause) wordy; potential tautology, as 100% is implicit in full agreement I agree
It is what it is
(idiomatic clause)
wordy so be it
look (interj, e.g., Look, I already told you) expletive meaning see here (strike as unnecessary)
no problem/worries
(noun phrase)
overly casual okay, sure, all right
oftentimes (adv) unnecessary length often
over and over again
(adv. phrase)
wordy often, frequently
pushing the envelope
(verb phrase)
elusive idiomatic imagery testing boundaries, taking chances, pioneering
that’s what I’m talkin’ about (idiomatic clause) wordy, overly casual okay, I agree, that’s right/correct
time after time
(adv. phrase)
wordy often, frequently, regularly
whatever (expletive, e.g., You want me to work all weekend? Whatever!) trendy and overly casual buzz word meaning yeah, right (strike as unnecessary)
you know (interj, e.g., You know, we could do even better if we trained longer) irrelevant insertion for emphasis (strike as unnecessary)

In sharing these additional worn-out words and phrases, we once again acknowledge that many will remain common and perhaps even useful in speech. Spoken English accepts overuse, redundancy, and casualness to suit interpersonal connection and comfort. It also establishes trust through greater simplicity and familiarity.

By studying and referring to the worn-out words and phrases identified thus far, we commit ourselves further to efficient writing. And as surely as language will go on evolving, the number of entries will continue to grow. United with you as careful writers, we welcome your suggestions for potential additions to future lists.

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Posted on Tuesday, September 11, 2018, at 11:00 pm

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Posted on Tuesday, September 4, 2018, at 11:00 pm

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Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, at 11:00 pm

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Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2018, at 11:00 pm

It's enough to drive even the most exacting writers, proofers, and editors a little batty sometimes: More than one descriptive word precedes a noun, forming what we call a compound modifier. Do we need to hyphenate the words, or are they well enough left alone? What if we have two words modifying another word and all three …

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