Five modern clichés to avoid in your writing – and what to say instead
A cliché is a turn of phrase or an expression that becomes popular because, to begin with, it sounded fresh and new. It summed up the situation neatly, perhaps by using imagery, a simile or a metaphor.
But eventually it becomes tired and trite.Think of a football manager who's 'over the moon' with a good result or 'sick as a parrot' when their team loses, for example.
Every organisation has its own clichés. They're the phrases that are used so often, they've become meaningless. Eventually, your eyes glaze over as you read them, and you can't seem to take the information in.
Here are five modern clichés we suggest you avoid in your emails, reports, web copy – and, if things are really that bad – in your CV.
1. Holistic, especially 'a holistic approach'
This hasn't always been a cliché, but it's been so overused since the start of the millennium that if you write this, no one will believe you any more.
Instead, try showing the reader that you thought about and included all aspects of the project. So a physiotherapist might say that 'as well as examining the painful shoulder, they also corrected the patient's posture and discussed their lifestyle'.
2. Issues around
Skirting the problem here, aren't we? Don't be afraid to write words like 'problem' or 'difficulty'.
If you put 'challenges' or 'issues' instead, everyone knows that you actually mean problems – a little honesty can help your organisation come across as trustworthy. If you must write 'issues', then it's 'issues with' rather than 'issues around'.
Possibly the most overused word in business writing during the past ten years. If you are formulating a strategy, then fair enough. Otherwise, try to explain how what you did was strategic (without writing 'strategic').
Did you plan ahead? If so, how far ahead? Did you think of things no one else had remembered? If so, what were they and what difference did that make? And if your job title contains the word 'strategic' ask your boss if you can get it removed.
If you work in logistics, or for Royal Mail, obviously this is fine. But if you're in PR or accountancy, then saying you'll 'deliver a project on time' is a modern cliché.
How about 'complete', 'finish' or something specific to your work? We often tell our clients that we'll simply 'write' their copy. Most of them are happy with that and don't seem to require it 'delivered'.
5. Committed, as in 'we are committed to'
We've written about this one before – about how people thought it sounded good even though it actually meant very little. Well, now it doesn't even sound good any more. Try substituting 'we will always...' or anything else that constitutes a real promise.
Without clichés, you should find your writing feels fresher and makes more of a connection with your readers.