8 Commonly Used Phrases That Make No Sense

By Heather Campbell

By Heather Campbell >>

Want to be a clear, concise communicator? Here’s a simple tip that guarantees you will take a step towards that goal: cut out unnecessary adjectives and adverbs – usually words like very, really, absolutely and extremely, although not limited to these.

But even if you are addicted to jazzing-up your communication with a few extra words that don’t add much value, there are certain combinations that should be banned. These are the ones that are nonsensical, rather than just being surplus words.

Here is my list of the most common (and irritating!) culprits:

1. Past (or previous) experience

Do you have access to a time machine? If not, it’s unlikely you’ve had any future experience.

2. Future planning

If you spend a lot of time on past planning, save yourself the trouble – it isn’t much help.

3. Totally unique

It’s either the only one of its kind or it isn’t! It’s not possible to be half unique.

4. Free gift

I can’t remember the last person who gave me a gift and then presented me with the bill for it! I certainly wouldn’t have been grateful.

5. New recruit

Have you got a few old ones stored away in a dusty cupboard?

6. New innovation

If only we could get rewarded for old innovation, life would be so much easier. I’d love to ‘innovate’ the light bulb, electricity and the wheel! What old innovations will you create today?

7. Two halves

Ever seen a melon being halved into four, or six, or eight?

8. Literally combined with anything that clearly didn’t happen

…as in “my heart was literally in my mouth” or “I literally jumped out of my skin” (gory).

And the one that particularly caught my attention recently: apparently a senior manager, having failed to explain business results to his superiors’ satisfaction, was “literally thrown to the lions” in a meeting – now I know times are tough but even so, that seems a particularly severe way to manage poor performance!

What are your favourite unnecessary words? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @CommsMasters.

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  1. “At the end of the day” – why are so many activities judged by how they have played out at midnight?

    “Ubër” – as if adding a European accent to one’s word choice signifies a higher level of authenticity.

    “So” (as in, “I am SO going to literally win that Ubër honor, at the end of the day.”)

  2. Very nice!

    Let me add another (based upon the US elections):

    “The facts are………”

    Said by people who should know better when they don’t know the facts.

  3. Akin to ‘future planning’, I hate it when people use the term, ‘going forward’! I don’t think we can move backwards or sideways when time is concerned 🙁

    I once counted 22 ‘going forwards’ in a 1 hour meeting

  4. “look”

    It appears all over the place – “look .. at what?”

    Usually in anger or frustration.
    Often from a politician.
    Sometimes from a sports commentator ( Ian Thorpe – swimming – olympics – enough said)

  5. I’ll tell you what doesn’t makes sense; articles from people trying to be clever about clear and concise communication. Then the author proceeds to use the word “ain’t”

  6. Another is the use of “megatrend” in market analysis or marketing presentations. Generally it indicates a lack of due diligence or understanding of the market being presented.

  7. Jim Seybert & Phil Pryce… you two nailed it with your additions. I’m surprised there isn’t an acronym for “At the end of the day” cuz I hear it so much. I’m going to have to add “take it to the next level,” for overuse and along the same lines as “going forward”.

  8. Thanks Angelica, this is a good list. Thought of another example: Adding “at” where it isn’t needed, as in, “Where are my keys at?” Seems to me the “at” is redundant. A simple, “Where’d I leave my freaking keys” should suffice.

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