Filler clichés

What’s worse than a cliché? A cliché that doesn’t tell you anything.

If someone writes, “He walked through the room as quiet as a mouse,” at least I’ve learned something that I would not have learned if the sentence had read, “He walked through the room.” I learn that he did it quietly.

But if someone writes, “We anticipate some layoffs going forward,” I haven’t learned anything more than if the sentence had read, “We anticipate some layoffs.” Of course it’s going to happen going forward. It’s not like the company anticipates laying workers off last year.

A close cousin to “going forward” is “pre-planning.” Think about that one for a minute. If you don’t want to wing it, you try to figure out a course of action ahead of time. That’s called planning. So what is pre-planning? Something you do before you start planning? No, it’s something that shows that the writer forgot what “planning” means. If you plug the term into a search engine, you’ll see people trying to justify the word as “to plan in advance.” Well, that’s the only way that you can plan. You can’t plan for something after that something is already over.

Also in the same family is “at the end of the day.” This one isn’t completely useless, as it could be used to describe a conclusion that followed a series of smaller steps. A grand total after a series of subtotals, if you will. But too often it’s used exactly like “going forward,” tossed in as filler.

Have you been using filler clichés? If you aren’t sure, here’s one way to check. Try the sentence without the cliché. If you sentence still conveys the same meaning, you’ve found some filler. If it does change the meaning of the sentence, you can keep the idea. But please think of a more original way to say it.

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