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Cliché Away! - "Going Forward" Goes Backward

In your organization, do you ever hear phrases like these? 

  • guided by our plans going forward
  • going forward, we will move forward
  • we need to extend the planning horizon
  • assess the landscape
  • get traction in the customer space
  • do a micro teach
  • action out that solution
  • brought forward specific measures (Teasury Board Secretariat)
  • we offer snacks at reasonable prices (Via Rail)

Are our plans going forward, or do they go backward, sideways, or just stand still.  Where is "forward?"  Is forward a location, a time, or a state of being? We have no way of knowing.

What is a planning horizon?

How do you assess the landscape?

What is a thought paper?  Is it different from our thoughtless papers?

Is the customer space somewhere we can go? Is it nice?

If we brought forward specific measures, could we also bring forward vague measures? After bringing them forward, where did they go?

If you have difficulty understanding these phrases, rest assured the problem is not with you, but with the well-intentioned and real people who wrote them.  Buzzwords are unclear.  They hide the real meaning.

Try this video about Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard's use of the phrase, "moving forward."  Does it add to the meaning of the presentation?


Read the phrases again. Do you really understand them, or do you assume you understand them? Do they actually have meaning and are you correct about your interpretation? 

  • our sales plan will guide how we approach prospects
  • we need to plan for the next five years
  • assess the situation
  • get customers to buy more
  • teach
  • implement the solution
  • implemented measures
  • we offer snacks that you can purchase

Clearer?  While we need more details to understand the full meaning, the phrases are clearer. Buzzwords and clichés are unclear. Using them is driven by some ego need to sound more important, chic, hip. Perhaps the writer is lazy or doesn't know any better. Buzzwords and clichés cause confusion. If you are trying to cause confusion, go for it; if you are trying to create clarity, think again.  If you think no one rolls their eyes when you use clichés, think again.

In this video, former speech writer Don Watson discusses management speak:

In the words of Leo Buscaglia, "If you can't say it simply, don't say it at all!"


U.S. Government Plain Language Program
[While I applaud their efforts, I suspect they aren't getting much traction. Heh heh!]

Strunk & White, "The Elements of Style"


Going forward, let's move forward on re-focusing our intentions on a paradigm shift to a landscape of simplicity in the language space. At the end of the day, it will give us traction on a new mind share.

Enjoy this largely off-the-cuff video of Craig Senior delivering "Wasted Words are Waste!"

To rule-bound readers, we allow some interjection at our Club to develop improvisational skills and flexibility for speakers.

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