No I don’t “got to”: phrases that make me cringe

There are certain phrases that make me cringe. “You’ve got to . . .” is one of them. It’s not just the grammar usage, but the message. I often hear speakers, consultants and others providing guidance with words that imply absolutes. I fired a vendor years ago that used this term in almost every sentence uttered to clients. When your language choice corners people, they’re bound to eventually strike back – or tune out.

Phrases that make me cringe and some words too
Courtesy enter via Flickr

“You need to,” “you have to” and “just do this,” are more correct, but equally grating.

I’m no grammar guru (I never could understand those sentence diagrams we suffered through in high school), but do see language considerations as critical in how we make people feel – and act. The words you choose will affect your ability to influence, sell, comfort, perform and be seen as a credible resource.

Stating the unnecessary

Tell me how great you are and I’m going to wonder. Hearing phrases like “in my expert opinion,” “according to my vast research,” and “my years of experience have taught me,” gets my internal voice busy with translations:

In my expert opinion: Says you because no one else will

According to my vast research: Oh, boy, here’s another source I’m going to have to fact check with scrutiny

My years of experience have taught me: Right – you haven’t opened a book to expand your knowledge since high school

Stretching the truth

Does anyone else question veracity when someone starts off with “in my honest opinion”?

Sometimes I wonder if people understand half the words in their resume. Sentences that contain twenty adjectives (or worse, adverbs) get my head spinning. Then there are those that try to hide their lack of knowledge by filling the piece with industry jargon. What makes anyone think the human resource staffer screening applications is jargon savvy? Or that a higher-up will assume you’re a wizard because you throw some terminology his way?

I know an extremely accomplished gal who did not go to college. Later in life, she was awarded an honorary doctorate. Now she’s Dr. everywhere her name appears. I don’t get it. She doesn’t need a title to gain credibility. She already has it. This decision is undermining it.

Go to words

We’re all guilty of it (please point out mine when you see them), but sometimes the wrong ones can create dissonance. I know an author who uses the word “terrific” in everything she writes, repeatedly. Granted, Microsoft Word has redefined this term, but a writer should at least consult a dictionary once in a while with words she uses constantly. The etymology on this one is terror (Latin, terrificus). That’s certainly not the meaning she’s going for.

So many patterns go unnoticed, but do it too much and you’ll lose your listener. “You know” (no I don’t) and “like I said” (then why are you repeating yourself?) are two that will get you. Have you ever attended a speech where you stopped listening to what was being said and counting how many times a go to word was used?

What phrases make you cringe?

Do you have language choices that drive you crazy? Phrases someone you know uses to excess? Go to words of mine you’ve caught and are willing to point out (I’ll recognize you in a future blog post, with permission, of course)? Please share in the comments below.

6 responses to “No I don’t “got to”: phrases that make me cringe”

  1. I know we’re all guilty of this. When I was younger and I didn’t hear or understand something someone said, I would say, “do what?” Then I had a friend of mine who would answer with “do nothing.” So I don’t say that anymore. When I’m writing something, I tend to go to the thesaurus quite often so that I don’t say the same word 15 times in a post! But I know there are a lot of things I say that I shouldn’t. Like a lot, for instance. Probably shouldn’t say that as much as I do either! 😉

    • It’s great when we have people in our lives kind enough to point out what we may not be realizing we’re saying, isn’t it, Michelle. When I joined Toastmasters (years ago – haven’t been involved for quite a while) I was amazed to learn about some speech patterns I had developed without realizing it. Better to hear about it from a friend than a critic.

      I wasn’t able to comment on your blog (Blogger issues) but laughed at the videos you posted of your son.

  2. Growing up in Texas, our conversation was filled with ya’ll, fixin’ to, jeet (did you eat) and other abbreviations that were understood by all. I know I certainly have language quirks that probably annoy my readers and I have my share that annoy me. I honestly (just for you Nanette) have to say that my biggest pet peeve is spelling errors. Take a minute to proof your post before hitting publish. You can’t claim to be an expert if you can’t spell proper. Oops, properly, need to use an adverb there. Like Nanette says, you don’t need to tell everyone you are an expert, just be the expert.

    • Too funny, Minette. Yes, there are certainly cultural and geographic terms we all pick up. I imagine when people head up to the Northeast they wonder why we talk so weird :-). I’ll admit to spelling errors popping through on occasion (it’s tough to proof your own work) but do get a bit cranky when asked to review (or suffer through) something the writer hasn’t even read.

  3. I am sure that I have “go to” phrases that I shouldn’t go to…but like most people I don’t even recognize it. It’s easier to see, I think, when I write, because the words are there in black and white and there’s no escaping them. One peeve that I do have is the dangling preposition (don’t think that’s the real term!) where a person will write, or speak, and end with a preposition that just sort of waves in the wind at the end of the sentence. Oh, and my good friend…who writes with all ellipticals…in every email…you know what I mean? 🙂

    • Good point, Susan. I suppose it’s easier to catch them in writing, but so many don’t realize they’re doing it (while I try to avoid being repetitive with words or phrases in each item I write, I imagine there are some that I use more than I should over time with different documents). Too funny on the . . . – I have a former client who was a nitpicking editor that does this all the time in e-mails. Gets me cross-eyed trying to decipher what she’s trying to say (she’s created her own shorthand too – and let’s just say she came along a few generations prior to the thumb wielding crew). No idea when or where or why this transformation took place, but it is curious.

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