It’s time for me to complain about bits of language usage that irritate me. If I have covered these before, it’s because they are still irritating me like rubbing poison ivy and sandpaper on my earlobes. After each phrase that should die a painful death is the reasons it sucks or the ways to fix it.
1. “Now more than ever”
- It’s a cheap way to imply that something has changed and now things are worse or more important than they have ever been.
- I’m tempted to say ‘oh yeah, what about five minutes from now?’
- I’m also tempted to ask if they have any proof.
- It’s a comparison that compares the present to all previous time, which is asinine.
2. “In times like these”
- Usually cited by someone trying to make the present sound awful. This person typically has absolutely no idea what dark, troubling times actually are like, but you will feel tempted to introduce this person to them with your bare hands.
- Implies that we all understand what these times are like. It’s a simplistic view of the world. Every time or epoch has good and bad and unrelated aspects. Can anyone agree on the 1860s? How did the Civil War square up with land grant colleges, the transcontinental railroad and Darwin’s research?
- Implies that the speaker and you agree on the same world view. And that this agreement will allow them to exploit your sore feelings about the present for the speaker’s gain.
3. “In order to”
- It sounds officious, like a decree of a Roman emperor, who were mostly jerks.
- Say ‘to’ and realize there is nothing lost.
4. “Literally” (stopping its rampant overuse is literally self-explanatory)
5. “Let me be clear”
- Implies that everything they said before wasn’t important and wasn’t clear.
- What they are about to say is not really all that clear, but they hope you think so because they told you it will be clear.
- What they are about to say is some carefully-crafted weasel-lawyer phrase that probably is meant to hold up in court or to have its hairs split.
- It’s a stage direction. Keep it to your self.
- Is the speaker asking for permission? How about ‘to be clear’? I feel tempted to respond ‘No, we will not let you be clear.’
- Whatever is about to be said would have more effect if it was just said in a declarative way.
6. “That being said”
- This is a snootier version of ‘on the other hand.’
- It sounds like you are delivering a lecture (nobody wants to hear a lecture).
- Any person who has ever said this has just announced that they have been talking too long.
- The speaker can’t make up their mind, but they are happy to waste your time thinking out loud on the way to perhaps coming to a conclusion.
- They want to appear to be balanced and objective.
- It is illogical.
7. “I have a quick question”
- I am tempted to say ‘I have a low tolerance for my time being wasted.’
- It implies that the person is not taking up much of a person’s time – and most of the time, the questioner actually doesn’t care how long it takes.
- By declaring it a ‘quick’ question, the person saying it is almost always insisting that you drop everything you are doing at the moment to answer their question immediately.
- It’s a stage direction – if you want to ask a question, don’t tell me you plan to ask the question, just ask the question. By stating your intention, you are violating the idea of being ‘quick.’
8. “I’m going to let you go”
- It’s a passive aggressive way to say ‘I don’t want to talk to you anymore.’
- The “it’s not you, it’s me” connotation, which is patently false and patronizing because the speaker is ending the conversation.
- It implies that the speaker is in control of the conversation, it is held at their convenience and they really don’t give a shit if you have anything else to say.
- If you’re going to lie, tell them you have a meeting, appointment, someone looking for you, or anything.
9. “As we go forward”
- There’s no we. There’s someone dictating how everyone else will proceed.
- Implies progress will occur. But this is often rolled out when the speaker’s organization is taking a giant step backwards.
- If the speaker didn’t qualify their statement with this phrase, would everyone assume that they would reverse time and take actions in the past?
10. “Take full responsibility”
- Stage direction again. Come on people.
- Means the opposite of what it says.
- It never precedes a resignation and rarely precedes a new course of action.
- It’s used to deflect blame falling on others, which sounds noble, but see #2, which makes it anti-noble.
- Ultimate single word causation-implication connector.
- Favorite journalistic editorialize-in-the-title trick.
- Signifies that the speaker/writer has no idea what is going on.
- Should only be used for physical descriptions, not interpreting events.