Grammar Worn-Out Words and Phrases: Resolving to Keep Writing Fresh in 2018 |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Worn-Out Words and Phrases: Resolving to Keep Writing Fresh in 2018

A new year once again draws near. For us grammarians and careful writers, the last 12 months have been another insightful and adventurous journey through the rules, styles, and techniques that help form concise and expressive American English.

Because each new year represents fresh resolve and beginnings, we thought we’d wrap up 2017 with new entries to our growing list of tired language we started this summer—Worn-Out Words and Phrases and Worn-Out Words and Phrases (Follow-up).

As loyalists to the written word, we aim to communicate with precision and originality. We also look to uphold the integrity of proper English usage. Language, like culture, passes through trends that invite new elements to shake up the norm. Some elements have the substance to last. Others become feeble and faded with use and warrant policing from those who can help put a stop to their loitering. Together, we can keep written English more vivid by weeding the stragglers out.

We welcome and appreciate feedback in helping to reinforce style and usage. The following entries into our worn-out words and phrases came from responses we received from our readers during the last few months.

Original Problem Beyond Overuse Alternatives in Careful Writing
on a daily/weekly basis
(prep. phrase)
wordy daily, weekly
going/moving forward
(adv. phrase)
inaccurate idiom meaning in continuance in the future, from here, from now on
most importantly
(adv. phrase)
incorrect usage as adverb most important (adj), above all
I feel like (verb clause) subjective insertion before a statement
(e.g., I feel like the book is too long)
(strike as unnecessary)
bad optics
(noun phrase)
“buzz” phrase pertaining to the public’s view of something through the media bad perception, bad impression
ubiquitous (adj) big-word-itis (a clinical condition) all over, all around, everywhere
proactively (adv) often redundant modification of an action in progress (e.g. proactively seeking) (strike as unnecessary)
just (adv) intrusive insertion of thought
(e.g., Why don’t we just go tomorrow?)
(strike as unnecessary)
right? (interrogative) highly catch-phrase in nature (meaning: Isn’t that true/correct? Isn’t that so?) (strike as unnecessary)

As always, we acknowledge some of these may remain common in speech, where they often reinforce comfort and a connection to what’s current. They also maintain a conversation’s natural flow, which doesn’t always provide the pauses for reflection and selection that writing affords.

On that note, let’s resolve to continue polishing English to a shine in 2018. By wiping away words and phrases that dull what should be vibrant writing, we can make the language an even brighter way to persuade, inform, and inspire.

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

14 responses to “Worn-Out Words and Phrases: Resolving to Keep Writing Fresh in 2018”

  1. Shannon Brown says:

    Add the phase, “in order to” to the wordy list. Thank you for spreading good writing (and speech) habits.

  2. Steve Rosenberg says:

    I hear another phrase that is not only being overused, but it wrong: “Pushing the envelope.” The phrase is really “Pushing the edge of the envelope.” As Tom Wolfe pointed out in “The Right Stuff,” the envelope refers to the atmosphere that surrounds the earth. After WWII, airplane manufacturers were building planes that could fly at extreme heights where the atmosphere is extremely thin making it difficult to support the aircraft. Test pilots tried flying the planes higher and higher into the upper regions of the atmosphere, thus pushing the edge of the envelope.

  3. Marquis Witt says:

    I am pleased that you have attacked the incorrect usage of important, which has been replaced with importantly. Does this mean that grammar is dying? Is it a part of the millennials’ destruction of grammar, words, and punctuation? More important, are we experiencing a change in language?

    • Our belief is that grammar isn’t dying, but rather always evolving. Together with our audience, we aim to keep current with that progression while helping to maintain the core grammatical principles that keep English clear, concise, and eloquent.

  4. Sharon Corso says:

    I receive your newsletter and find it to be helpful and informative. I have a suggestion for topics that you can cover. There are two phrases that I’ve heard repeatedly that deserve some attention. The first is that I’ve heard more and more people saying, “all the sudden.” I’ve even seen this in print! Secondly, I’ve heard people say, “for all intensive purposes” (which is clearly incorrect). It would be nice if you would set the record straight! Thank you.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I believe correct grammar never goes out of style! Writing and speaking any language is an art form. Every sentence, with the right grammar, flows. And it doesn’t hurt your ears! I’m not an expert in grammar but I do know how to use a dictionary.

  6. Ramani Krutarth says:

    We request you to, not to use abusive language on call, is this grammaticality correct?
    Thank you.

  7. Julio says:

    Does “undersigned” have an opposite like “above signed” or “above-signed”?

    • It does make sense to have an opposite to undersigned, such as above signed, above-signed, or abovesigned. However, we do not see it in any official dictionary or online reference. If you use such a word, we imagine people would understand what you’re referring to.

  8. Barbara Broer says:

    Lots of my students write “first off” instead of “first.” They do not write “second off.”

    On the news I hear “Take a listen.” It seems “listen” would do. However, it may be a British idiom because they say “Take a lie-down” while we “Take a nap.” Both “Take a listen” and “Take a lie-down” make a verb into a noun.

    • Andrew Gibson says:

      That’s an interesting observation, Barbara. I simply wish to contribute by saying that I am a British person, of advanced middle-age, and I have never heard the phrase “take a listen”. I do, however, readily respond to the instruction “take a nap”.

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