01 January 2018

Saying "Goodbye" to Clichés

"And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been."

--Rainer Maria Rilke

What would you like to do in 2018? Find a new job? Exercise more? Travel to faraway places?   

How about saying goodbye to "clichés" ("Thrown under the bus") and their poor relative, "buzzwords?" ("pivot") 

It wouldn't be easy since we're creatures of habit. But with practice, it might be possible ("only time will tell"). And those around you would be grateful. As one source noted, "Moving away from these dreaded terms means people would hear fewer phrases or opinions which are overused, and betray a lack of original thought." ("Buy in")

Management consultants and publishers may contribute to the problem when offering simplistic solutions to complex problems. ("Boiling the ocean")

What's a cliché?  

According to yourdictionary.com, a cliché can be categorized in one of two ways:

An overused expression. Something that's said a lot and has become so common it's no longer even noticed in conversation. The website offers phrases such as "to this day" or "next thing I knew" as examples.   

An idea with a different meaning from its literal meaning. Sweaty palms or twinkling eyes have real and imagined implications.

In our study, outdated is used to describe tiresome clichés like "read between the lines." Even true sayings ("all that glitters is not gold") lose their appeal by over-using.  

Origin of the word  

The word cliché has French ancestry. It comes from the clicking (clicher, to click) of printing presses. It was the printer's jargon for "stereotype" or a word or phrase that gets repeated often. How often may be the problem.

We've moved past "with all due respect."  Or, "you know what I mean." Those phrases are not helpful to anyone wanting to have an intelligent conversation.   

Where to begin?

Here are two lists. One is a subjective look at ten present-day clichés that show up frequently in business and politics and are repeated in the media. Sometimes this terminology spills over into everyday conversations. The other is a list of buzzwords found in recruiters' LinkedIn profiles.       

Ten clichés to leave behind--
  • At the end of the day
  • It is what it is
  • Going forward
  • Low-hanging fruit
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Best practices
  • Team player
  • I don't have the bandwidth
  • Getting everyone on the same page
  • Game changer
Buzzwords to avoid on a LinkedIn 
  • Specialized
  • Leadership
  • Experienced
  • Focused
  • Strategic
  • Passionate
  • Excellent
  • Expert
  • Generalist
  • Successful
Being different

There may be times when it's appropriate to insert a cliché into a conversation, such as, "I lost track of time." However, it's not a good habit as clichés and buzzwords tend to diminish your credibility.  

As an original, your expressions of thought should be, too. Rather than appearing interchangeable with colleagues by using the latest jargon, consider the benefits of being clear and concise when choosing your words.    

We admire those traits in others, and they'll also be admired in you.  


(C) Bredholt & Co.