A list of banned clichés

John Rentoul, the chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, is always worth reading. Three years ago he started developing a list of prohibited clichés on his blog, and the top 100 banned words and phrases are available on The Independent’s website: the complete Banned List is to be published in book form in October.

Here are the first 30 banned items: I’m temped to say they’re food for thought except that’s a cliché too, although not in the top 100. I’m sorry about number 6: it’s such a delicious irony. Ah well.

1. It’s the economy, stupid.
2. A week is a long time in politics. Or variants thereof, such as, “If a week is a long time in politics then a month seems an eternity.”
3. What part of x don’t you understand? Although this one seems to have nearly died out already.
4. Way beyond, or way more.
5. Any time soon.
6. “Events, dear boy, events.”
7. Learning curve.
8. Raising awareness.
9. Celebrating diversity.
10. In any way, shape or form.
11. Inclusive.
12. Community, especially a vibrant one.
13. Hearts and minds.
14. Celebrity.
15. Makeover.
16. Lifestyle.
17. Going forward.
18. A forward policy.
19. A big ask.
20. At this moment in time.
21. Not fit for purpose.
22. Hard-working families.
23. Apologies for lack of postings.
24. Black hole (in a financial context).
25. The elephant in the room.
26. Perfect storm.
27. Seal the deal.
28. A good election to lose.
29. Game-changer.
30. Beginning an article with “So”.

The original Banned List was, of course, George Orwell’s: you can see his ‘Politics and the English Language’ article here. And Orwell’s six rules of writing hold good.

• Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
• Never use a long word where a short one will do.
• If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
• Never use the passive where you can use the active.
• Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
• Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

And now I must go and stare despairingly at my own writing …

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