Prefabricated or ready-made expressions

The following phrases appear so often that they are stale and ineffective (at least to those readers who pay attention). Ready-made phrases also substitute for thought: because we hear them so frequently, they jump into our heads and then escape from our lips or onto the written page without passing through our brain. Do not accept such prefabricated words and thoughts. Select your own words and build your own thoughts - they will be stronger than the prefabricated kind. Some of these words, such as 'global' and 'millennium', are legitimate, but thoughtful writers will avoid them because thoughtless writers use them so often.

'the fact of the matter is ...' 'the fact that ...'

'window of opportunity', 'meeting the challenge', 'level playing field'

'send a message' (to anyone about anything) as in 'The president is sending a strong message to his opponents.'

'the take-home message is ...'

'empowerment of' (anyone or anything)

'a warm, caring environment'

'global' (anything), 'cutting edge', 'fully integrated', 'fully diversivied'

'the bottom line is ...' (unless you are an accountant)

'the good news is blah blah blah and the bad news is blah blah blah'

'preparing for the next millennium', 'the 21st century'

'bio' as a prefix in new words, e.g., biorational, bioresponsible, bioglobal

'radical' or 'extreme' as in 'That dude is radical' (unless you are referring to Karl Marx)

'issues' as a synonym for problems or concerns as in 'I have issues with him'.

'the best of both possible worlds' (or the worst)

'pose a threat'

'taking it to the next level' unless you operate an elevator and 'pushing the envelope' (unless you are a postal clerk)

'plays a role in' (unless you are an actor)

'serves a role or roll' (unless you work in a restaurant)

Can you find the over-worked expressions in this letter from the United States Olympic Committee?

Here are more from 'Woe Is I' by P. T. O'Connor: back to the drawing board, beat a dead horse, blessing in disquise, boggles the mind, bone of contention, can of worms, can't see the forest for the trees, come to a head, draw a blank, each and every, easier said than done, few and far between, food for thought, forseeable future, get nowhere fast, glass ceiling, grind to a halt, heated argument, in the nick of time, innocent bystander, it goes without saying, last but not least, meaningful dialogue, seriously consider, tip of the iceberg, up in the air, viable alternative.

More inspiration from the Olympics: carrying the hopes and tears (hopes and fears?), going to the mat, when all is said and done, reach deep inside, hard on the heels, resting on the shoulders of ..., venue (meaning arena or stadium),

Cliché and dead metaphor defined: Kane distinguishes between a cliché ('a trite expression, devalued by overuse') and a dead metaphor (old metaphors still useful in everyday diction, such as the key to the problem or the heart of the matter). According to Kane, clichés attempt to be original and fail whereas dead metaphors do not try to be original. I suggest you avoid using any familiar phrase (unless you are using it for effect), whether cliché or dead metaphor.

Jargon. Scientists, technicians, and other specialists often need and use technical language to communicate with each other. If both the writer and reader understand the technical language, the language would not be labeled 'jargon'. If the reader doesn't understand the technical language, however, it's 'jargon'. Writers may use jargon intentionally (to mystify, impress, or confuse the reader) or unintentionally. If you respect your reader, do not use jargon.

Consider the following sentence: The guild of Rhinolophoidea at Kuala Lompat exhibited ecomorphological structure that was nonrandom in phylogeny-free multivariate morphospace.