Opinions on the use of trite phrases
(A discussion thread excerpted
I'm currently enrolled in
an introductory Business Communication/Writing class (pretty cool I might say)
and the instructor cautioned us to avoid 'trite
expressions' in our writing/speaking/etc. Phrases like "thank you for your time"
and so on; generic throwaways. I'm curious to see what other people think of
these kinds of expressions, and if anyone would like to share particular phrases
that they find to be trite and/or meaningless.
- It seems to me that it just depends
on your intent. Are you trying to be professional, get your point across,
etc.? Then yeah, canned expressions have a lower information density than
intelligent prose, and they can be annoying. I'm a bit more cordial, for example,
with my contacts in China where I am trying to establish a relationship.
- If the lack of the trite business
expressions would come off as rude, then we recommend using them.
- There's nothing wrong with being
polite. Thanking someone for their time or for helping you with some task
is just good manners, IMO.
- You're right. Thanking someone
is not trite, however, the expression "Thank you for your time" seems to be
a bit overused. Why not thank the person for a specific action? Thank them
for listening to your ideas, for showing you around, for coming in for a meeting,
etc. It also makes it sound a bit more personal.
- In writing, I can understand the
need to be terse, and its often appreciated in email for faster skimming.
However, in person, "meaningless" phrases such as, "Thank you" or "It's been
a pleasure" are quite appropriate. There's a fine line between terse and impolite.
- Trite expressions can come off
making you sound like a dimwit droid when used too frequently. Overused business
expressions can do the same thing.
When a new business concept comes out it can become very popular for a while.
And using it in the correct context is a way of letting your business peers
know that you are "in the know". But over-reliance on last year's old, tired
business concept is a subtle way of telling people that you are "not in the
know" and not worth spending time with or on. I think it's better to avoid
the trite expressions myself. If lets you move amoung larger social circles
without having to repeat yourself for them to understand.
I should also mention that trite expressions don't often translate well across
Just my humble opinion.
- "At the end of the day"
- "Your mileage may vary"
- anything using the words paradigm or synergy unless you're really sure you
understand what they mean
Use: Bulleted lists. All I learned in college about business is use bulleted
- faster communication
- easy to skim
- punctuation unnecessary
- speak to business people on their own terms
On a somewhat serious note, I had a manager a few years back who was a real
cold fish and signed all his emails:
I liked that cold, calculating response so much that I use it on most of my
formal business missives. It's heartless and impersonal, yet it wishes you
not only "regards" but nothing but the best regards.
- I think Trite responses allow
for a more synergistic assembly of liason phrases.
- I think the problem is that many
people in the corporate world have tried to cover up their lack of imagination,
intelligence and especially preparedness thought by using stock phrases that
sound somewhat intelligent. Not only that but lots of people are afraid of
looking like that are not part of the culture so they stick to safe language
that they hear everyone else around the office using.
When that happens, you have some people who wind up using a lot of flowery
language but not actually telling you anything interesting or new. Nothing
wrong with canned phrases, but make sure that there is some thought behind
what you're writing.
Comments and questions? Make Contact