Kickin’ Cliches

By Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA

I am as guilty as anyone (probably more so) of peppering my writing, blog posts, emails, presentations, and spoken communications with clichés–words or expressions so overused that they lack originality. That’s why it is with mixed mortification and delight that I am sharing Robert Deigh’s 2019 Worst Business Clichés List.

Robb is a public relations buddy of mine and author of two wonderful PR books for small businesses. In featuring this list in his recent newsletter, Robb reports he knows people who entertain themselves in boring business meetings by keeping track of the number of clichés uttered. A new sport is born!

See what you think of these 35 clichés, along with their plain English translations, and don’t hesitate to add your own:

  1. Influencer (authoritative, with large audience)
  2. Thought leader (see: Influencer)
  3. Disrupter (industry changer)
  4. Curate (collect/compile)
  5. Silver lining (positive aspect)
  6. Sunset (let expire)
  7. Unpack (analyze part by part)
  8. Across the pond (in the UK or the U.S)
  9. 360-degree thinking (comprehensive)
  10. 180 on that (changed my mind)
  11. Break down silos (work together)
  12. Circle back (discuss)
  13. Touch base (contact)
  14. Reach out (contact)
  15. Brainchild (invention, idea)
  16. Brain dump (briefing)
  17. Pick your brain (ask you)
  18. Brainstorm (discuss)
  19. No-brainer (easy)
  20. It’s not brain surgery (easy)
  21. It’s not rocket science (easy)
  22. Slam dunk (certain)
  23. At the end of the day (ultimately)
  24. The perfect storm (bad combination)
  25. Get my head around (understand)
  26. Drill down (get more detail)
  27. Granular (more detailed)
  28. Take it offline (talk after meeting)
  29. Win-win (mutually beneficial)
  30. On the same page (agree)
  31. Task force (working group)
  32. Drink the Kool-Aid (this refers to a 1978 mass suicide; just no)
  33. Mission critical (essential)
  34. No silver bullet (no single solution)
  35. Crunch time (near deadline)

If you love words as much as I do, reading this list will make you feel like a kid in a candy store. I suggest you take the tiger by the tail and avoid these like the plague, think outside the box, and make the use of clichés in all your communications dead as a doornail.

Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA, is IPMI’s communications counsel.