My 10 most hated words and phrases

Okay, I am a stickler for clear, effective spoken and written communication that makes correct and appropriate use of our gloriously rich and subtle English language. But I make no apologies for that. There are some words and phrases that are so overused, misused, clumsy or downright meaningless that I want to lash out whenever I hear them uttered. 


This word, defined by the English Dictionary as ‘causing feelings of great admiration, respect or fear’ has now been so diluted by overuse (and I blame our transatlantic cousins here) that it is regularly applied to anything vaguely nice-looking, interesting or enjoyable.

No worries

I really detest this antipodean import. It’s bad enough when used by anyone you are asking to do something, such as call you at a certain time or bring you the bill. It’s much more annoying when you are pointing out a serious mistake and asking the perpetrator to put it right. ‘But I am worried’, I want to point out, ‘and with good reason.’

Going forward

Often used in parentheses in strategy documents or formal reports, as in: ‘Our aim, going forward, is to maximise our gains and minimise our losses’ – or some such. Are we ever going backward? What’s wrong with plain English phrases like ‘next year’ or ‘in future’?

Issues around…

This is a particularly ghastly phrase, much loved by committee types, as in ‘issues around ethnicity’ or ‘issues around child abuse’. I don’t think an issue can ever really be ‘around’ anything. Rather we focus ‘on’ issues. But why mention ‘issues’ at all when you could just talk about ethnicity or child abuse?


See ‘awesome’ above. Now so limp from overuse that it has come to mean anything just a little bit different. And don’t get me started on ‘very unique’, ‘quite unique’ or ‘almost unique’ – all contradictions in terms.

This train is comprised of…

…10 carriages, or whatever. It either ‘comprises’ or ‘is composed of’. But why not just say the train ‘has’ 10 carriages?

At this moment in time

Usually used by someone trying to sound important or portentous – or playing for time while they think of what they really want to say. ‘Now’ works fine in all situations, thank you very much.

With respect

A pompous legalistic phrase, almost always implying the opposite


My fingers were itching to slap the waiter who said this to me on Saturday, while plonking down my Caesar salad with a flourish. It’s a transitive verb for crying out loud! I refuse to ‘enjoy’ without an object.

 Reach out

Where did this bizarre phrase come from with its attendant images of arms outstretched across the telephone wires or cyberspace? Suddenly it’s everywhere, as in: ‘I will reach out to our finance department to set up a PO’, or ‘I will reach out to you about the agenda on Monday’. I will walk naked down the fast lane of the M1 before I ever ‘reach out’ to anyone. But I will continue to ‘call’ or ‘contact’ the people I need to work or play with.

Can I help you?

Clearsay works with professionals from all sectors to improve their spoken communication skills for use in presentations, media interviews and meetings of all kinds. To find out how we can help your organisation, please click on the Home Page button.