We hear them 24/7. But at the end of the day, which cliché makes you want to scream? With all due respect, figuring this out is not rocket science. At least, that's what a group called the Plain English Campaign thought. Led by John Lister, it surveyed more than 5,000 English-speaking people in 70 countries to determine the most annoying clichés of all time.
And the No. 1 most annoying cliché is: "at the end of the day."
And that is so right! There is nothing more annoying than a serious business executive standing before a room of bored employees droning on about "at the end of the day....blah blah blah." Folks just stop listening when those words are uttered. Which is exactly Lister's point about clichés. "When readers or listeners come across these tired expressions, they start tuning out and completely miss the message--assuming there is one," he told The Associated Press. "Using these terms in daily business is about as professional as wearing a novelty tie or having a wacky ringtone on your phone." Since he surveyed people in 70 countries, Lister expected geographical variations. He was surprised. The same tired old phrases are universally annoying around the world.
The Most Irritating Clichés: 1. At the end of the day 2. At this moment in time 3. The constant use of "like," as if it were a form of punctuation 4. With all due respect
Irritating Cliché Runners-Up: --24/7 --absolutely --address the issue --awesome --ballpark figure --bear with me --between a rock and a hard place --blue-sky thinking --bottom line --crack troops --glass half full (or half empty) --I hear what you're saying --in terms of --it's not rocket science --literally --move the goal posts --on a weekly basis --ongoing --singing from the same hymn sheet --the fact of the matter is --thinking outside the box --to be honest with you --touch base
An Example Of Good Writing
WE MUST absolutely address the issue about THE awesome ballpark figure. bear with me, WE ARE between a rock and a hard place AND MUST GET OUT OF THIS WITH blue-sky thinking ABOUT THE bottom line. WE MUST SEND crack troops TO THINK ABOUT WHETHER THE glass half full (or half empty). I hear what you're saying in terms of THE FACT THAT it's not rocket science, literally. WE MUST move the goal posts on a weekly basis IN OUR ongoing EFFORTS TO BE singing from the same hymn sheet. the fact of the matter is THAT WE ARE thinking outside the box. to be honest with you, WE MUST touch base REGULARLY, IN FACT WE MUST DO SO --24/7
Well, let's run it up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes. Have your people call mine and we'll do lunch. Caio'.
Yeah, using phrases like those would be like being out on a limb up a tree without a paddle!
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Some of the above examples, in my opinion, qualify as what I like to refer to as "verbal tics" and are spoken automatically without the speakers even realizing that they are using them so repeatedly.
"Like" and "you know" are probably the best known examples in our culture, but "what?" at the end of a sentence is a common one for certain British characters (usually wealthy old gents, from what I can tell), so there are probably other cultural ones.
I think verbal tics can be a useful thing for writers to know about and can serve as one of their characterization tools, but as has been pointed out, because they can be so very annoying, they should be used sparingly and perhaps with only one character per story.
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I could add thousands of -- well, not that I see the examples given as cliché. They are idioms, perhaps overused and thus trite though intended to persuade: what, emotional alignment, gather thoughts, interject or interrupt, maybe browbeat; "As lightning to the children eased," mute hard or harsh truths; encourage participatory cooperation, maybe even coerce conformance?
Such words and phrases are of two general categories: meaningful and meaningless. "At the end of the day" is oftentimes meaningful, at times nonsensical and non sequitur. The meaningful variety intends to express "in conclusion," or "after all is said and done," or "the outcome will be," or "after the results are final or official," or, in other words, to predict and ensure a self-fulfilling prophesy.
"Well" used as an idiom, as I have above, is a "Discourse Marker" Wikipedia. The part of speech of these and those above example "cliché" idiomatic expressions -- discourse markers all -- grammatically is interjection. Interjections' grammatical function is express emotional attitude commentary. As discourse markers, interjections signal a pause to gather thoughts or assert "taking the floor" mid another speaker's "floor" time or to hold the floor while gathering thoughts for the next expression salvo or to signal a change in topic or direction. Discourse markers range from non sequitur to nonsensical to meaningless to some little degree of meaning.
Discourse marker idioms that express meaning, though are no less trite, intend to emphasize what will follow or what came before. Emphasis is the core function principle of idioms generally, the principle of substance. The actual meaning of such idiomatic words or phrases, if any, is moot and mute.
My current least favorite marker idiom is "That being said," is akin to "At the end of the day." Note the emphasis intent from the rhetorical figure of calling attention to what's just been expressed (proslepsis). Proslepsis, more specifically, though, signals what was just expressed in passing is actually more important than the speaker accomplished and auditors were led to believe beforehand. Artless use of proslepsis piles wasted emphasis onto weak and wasted emphasis. The rhetorical vice is artless repetition.
Perhaps, at times, though, such idioms may signal to a following speaker her or his time to speak is near. Get ready, I'm passing the speaking stick soon. And then, of course, draws out the conclusion to an unsustainable degree, makes the prepped next speaker wait interminably.
The idiom, in artless practice, actually signals what came before was not as important as what will follow, and may serve -- does serve -- to signal or is interpreted as attention is no longer required. This later discourse that follows is also unimportant. The lecture is almost over. Time to pack up the notepads and pencils and recorders and prepare to leave. Artless users of that idiomatic phrase mean they have weakly expressed their point and must emphasize that what they said is nonetheless important, and signals the speaker has failed to persuade and knows it. Failure of expression. The expression vice came beforehand, probably from the start of the discourse. The idiom might just as well have not been uttered: valid for most of such idioms.
Because emphasis is the prime function of idioms, timely, judicious, and sparing use of them and any emphasis keeps them lively. Overuse blunts any and all emphasis.
That's the grammar and rhetoric take on idioms: style virtue or vice complete.