07/04/2017
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Phrases not to use in your writing (unless you want it to be dull)

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Do any of these horrible phrases appear in your writing?

No-one wants to read writing that’s stilted and characterless. However, there’s a fine balance between over-formal written language and lapsing into the colloquialisms and clichés of everyday speech. Most of us are aware of business jargon, which is ripe for satire and frequently a source of material for comic writers. But there are words and phrases that have crept into popular use that will make your work feel prosaic. Some of them pile up more words than necessary to express a simple idea. Some are clumsily phrased. Some are euphemisms. All could be expressed more elegantly, or at least neatly. As writers, choosing the right words to express your meaning and putting them in the right order are basic, and vital, skills.

There are words and phrases that shouldn’t make it into your work unless you want it to come across as lazy and lifeless. Some of them are derived from business usage, and they’re the easiest to remove and replace. Some are in everyday use for speech, but when you examine them on a written page you realise they are a) clunky, b) ugly and c) dull the effect of your writing.

When you’ve completed a first draft of whatever it is you’re writing – novel, short story, feature article – go through it again and if any of the following appear, think about replacing them with something shorter, more succinct and more accurately what you intend to say. This is not, by the way, an exhaustive list. There are many more culprits. Let us know on Facebook and Twitter (#horriblephrases) which are your particular bugbears, and your suggestions for replacements. Scroll down to see our #horriblephrases

 

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#horriblephrases

• At the end of the day
Our suggestion: Miss it out completely. But ‘in the end’ if you really must

• When all’s said and done
Our suggestion: Finally

• Take/bring to the table
Our suggestion: Contribute

• Think outside the box
Our suggestion: Think creatively

• It is what it is
Our suggestion: Be realistic

• The fact of the matter is
Our suggestion: The thing is

• The reason being
Our suggestion: Because

• Action this
Our suggestion: Do this

• Drop/ping you an email
Our suggestion: Send you an email

• Take this idea on board
Our suggestion: Understand/accept this idea

• The bottom line is
Our suggestion: The most important thing is

• I have issues with that
Our suggestion: I have problems with that

• At this moment in time
Our suggestion: Now

• In any way, shape or form
Our suggestion: At all

• So, … (beginning a sentence)
Our suggestion: Do not start a written sentence with ‘So, …’

• In order to
Our suggestion: To

• All of the
Our suggestion: All the

• At this point in time
Our suggestion: Now

• The vast majority
Our suggestion: Most

• On the grounds that
Our suggestion: Because

So, we thought we'd run this idea up the greasy pole because it's all about blue-sky thinking and we're after low-hanging fruit. In order to take this idea further we need you to get on board and send us your worst examples of #horriblephrases to @WritingMagazine and Facebook.

 

 

Back to "How to write non-fiction" Category

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