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–Daphne Gray-Grant


Most Recent Blog Post

7 business cliches you should avoid…

business clichesReading time: About 2 minutes

Clichés are overused expressions. And business cliches…well, they’re bad for business…

Are clichés really that bad in business? Yes. And let me tell you why.

Clichés are overused expressions. At one time they might have been original. But now they’re old and stale. They make reading (or listening to a speaker) boring and bland. This is bad news for any business. After all, you don’t excite employees by being boring or bland. Nor do you inspire customers.

Words matter. So don’t serve your readers or listeners tired ones. Instead, create new phrases, new similes and metaphors. Excite your audience. Don’t give them the same old blah-blah-blah. The phrase “like lipstick on a pig” became a cliche as soon as it exited the mouth of Sarah Palin. Come up with something better than that.

Clichés don’t add to your writing — instead, they weaken it.  Because they come to us so easily, we usually write clichés without thought. And that lack of thought is what will tell your audience that you don’t care about them.  No employee or customer wants to feel that sort of neglect.

Furthermore, clichés seldom say exactly what them mean. They’re usually vague and imprecise. You can do better.

Here are seven business cliches you should be able to avoid:

Let’s think outside the box. We may live in houses or apartments (which, in truth, are kind of like boxes) but the image is so old it’s lost its oomph. If a leader said to me, “Let’s think of something radical, something unique,” I’d be far more motivated than if he started talking about (boring old) boxes.

Let’s walk the talk. Yes, let’s do that. But let’s not say that. Rhyme doesn’t help make this thought profound. It’s still perfectly banal and obvious.

Here’s a win-win situation. I don’t like the word “situation” because it fails to give me a visual image. Adding win-win to it doesn’t help. Of course, life is better when both sides win. Did you really have to go to business school to learn that?

We need a paradigm shift here. Who doesn’t? If we can think of new ways to do things, maybe we’ll make some money. And if we can thing of really new ways to do things, perhaps we can make even more money. Another thought that shouldn’t have required business school.

Let’s blue sky this. OK, the word “blue” helps slightly here. At least it gives me a visual image — and, to boot, it’s a cheerful one. But I dislike turning a noun phrase (“blue sky”) into a verb. A sky doesn’t do anything except sit there.

We need to tear down some silos. I have yet to see a silo anywhere except on the prairie. Companies with departments that don’t talk to each other have very little in common with facilities for storing grain. This is not only an old metaphor, it’s a particularly weak one.

This should go viral. This is a more recent cliche — a generation older than “this might go postal.” But, really, the digital world cannot describe every aspect of life. If you want something to be really popular, I suggest you begin by thinking of a more inventive way to describe popularity.

Cliches have no place in writing. Anymore than lipstick has a place on a pig.