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Make Your Business Writing Great. Get Rid of Clichés


Guest articles > Make Your Business Writing Great. Get Rid of Clichés


by: Robert Deigh



Clichés are like spies lurking in our copy (was that a cliché?), often unrecognizable from the rest of our writing. We say them so often that they become part of the language, slang expressions that, at first, seems clever and descriptive, but after a few tellings become stale and gray. When you see clichés in your writing, take them out and substitute plain English words that convey the same meaning and your writing will become brighter, more readable and help boost your visibility. This is especially important in your public relations, media and marketing efforts. Here are some examples of hackneyed business clichés (and more reader-friendly replacements in plain English):

  • Drill down (look for more detail)
  • Like drinking out of a firehouse (getting too much information at one time)
  • A new paradigm (a new model or pattern)
  • Think outside the box (try something new, a fresh approach)
  • Herding cats (getting everyone to work together)
  • Perpetrator (wrongdoer)
  • Close the loop (inform everyone who needs to know)
  • Circle back (update others on the situation)
  • Conflagration (fire)
  • Parameter (a standard by which something else is compared)
  • Monetize (make money from)
  • Like pulling teeth (difficult to obtain information from)
  • Downsized, rightsized, smartsized (let go)
  • Low-hanging fruit (already interested and easiest to provide/sell to)
  • Granular (more detailed)
  • Silver bullet (single solution)
  • Fly by the seat of your pants (figure things out as they come along)
  • Crossing that bridge when we come to it (figure things out as they come along)
  • Burning bridges (severing ties to important contacts)
  • Pushing the envelope (exceeding limits; setting a new trend)
  • Nose to the grindstone (working hard and staying focused)
  • Working one’s fingers to the bone (working hard)
  • Dinosaur (outmoded – but keep in mind, the dinosaurs lived for 150 million years)
  • Burning the midnight oil (working late)
  • Reinvent the wheel (do what has already been done, made, invented)
  • At the end of the day (the net effect)
  • No brainer (easy)
  • Call on the carpet (hold accountable)
  • Hold his feet to the fire (hold accountable)
  • The whole nine yards (everything)
  • Jump on the bandwagon (follow the crowd; do what is popular)
  • Strike while the iron is hot (act quickly while there is attention being given)
  • Read between the lines (find that which is implied)
  • Between a rock and a hard place (to have no good choices)
  • It is a marathon, not a sprint (we need to plan for the long term)
  • Dot your "i"s and cross your "t"s (finish the details of the job)
  • Win-Win (mutually beneficial)
  • Leading edge (innovative)
  • Off line (after the meeting; in private)
  • Turn-key solution (all-inclusive)
  • Deliverables (materials, products, songs, umbrellas – be specific)
  • Yada Yada Yada (stop it - the show was cancelled years ago)


Robert Deigh is principal of RDC Communication/PR and the author of "How Come No One Knows About Us?" (WBusiness Books, available May 2008), the PR guide for organizations large and small that want to win big visibility. Deigh helps organizations increase their visibility and build their brands by creating strong and positive relationships with the press and other audiences. He is also a well-known speaker and trainer on media and PR topics. Want more free info to build your business? Subscribe to Deigh’s popular monthly 1-page online newsletter “PR Quick Tips” from his website at He can be reached via email at, or by phone at 703-503-9321.

Contributor: Robert Deigh

Published here on: 09-Mar-08

Classification: PR


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