24 Clichés to Leave Behind in 2024: Part 3

Part 3 - Either annoying or disrespectful

We all have phrases and words that just rub us the wrong way. Those show up in the office a lot. Whether it’s because one specific person abuses the phrase, or because the phrase itself is problematic, some business clichés make us want to lash out in anger and frustration. To wrap up our series of 24 clichés to leave behind in 2024, here are 8 more office clichés that need to go away forever.

Piggyback (on someone else's thought)

I get it. You’re looking for a way to bring up your idea, and you don’t want to interrupt. Well, you don’t want to be seen as interrupting. So you piggyback on what someone else is saying. Then you say what you wanted to say, whether it supports what they were saying, contradicts it, or goes in a different direction.

Piggybacking is, appropriately, a good description of what is happening here: you’re riding on someone else, using their work to get yourself where you want to go. The problem is that unless you’re a little kid at a carnival, this is a lousy thing to do. That this has become appropriate office lingo signals a serious problem in corporate culture. We are willing not only to subvert one another to reach our own goals, but we’re happy to tell everyone that’s exactly what we’re doing.

So with piggyback, I’m not suggesting just that you stop using the word. I’m suggesting that you stop doing it. Collaborate. Offer a different idea. Say, “When we’re ready, I’d like to discuss another topic.” Just don’t jump on a coworker and declare them to be your “ride.”

Putting lipstick on a pig

Ew. Just ew. Putting lipstick on a pig is a euphemism for trying to dress something up to make it look good. (A lot of the terms on this list are exactly this sort of dissembling—what an old friend once called “rearranging the facts.”)

While the image of trying to make a farm animal beautiful with cosmetics is silly, the phrase calls to mind a darker meaning. Pig is also an insult for an ugly, fat, uncooperative, or otherwise undesirable woman or girl. Coupled with lipstick, which is traditionally associated with women and girls, this cliché has a misogynistic undertone.

Since most women and femme folks you work with have probably been derided as a pig (or other animal) at some point in their lives, you will likely make them feel uncomfortable if you discuss putting lipstick on a pig. Instead, you can say “let’s make the best of a bad situation,” or “this is how we are going to handle this problem.”

At the end of the day

This cliché takes a lot of words to say a simple thing. At the end of the day doesn’t mean “at quitting time today.” It means “ultimately.” You can add when all is said and done to this one and throw it away. It’s imprecise and wordy.

While we’re talking about time-related clichés, here is another one to ditch…

Going forward

Is there any other way to go? Going forward just means from now on or starting now. But if you know anything about the flow of time in our universe, you know that forward is the only direction it moves. You can’t go backward. This bit of temporal redundancy is unnecessary. So until you and your colleagues build a time machine, drop this one from your vocabulary.

Touch base

As a former little league player, I am surprised about how this cliché evolved. In the business world, touching base means to “check in” with someone. In baseball, it’s what you must do to be safe from an opposing player. Sure, check-ins can prevent failure, but hopefully no one in your office is looking to tag you out if you miss a meeting.

Ultimately, the meaning of touch base is well known, but it’s annoyingly businessy. You don’t need jargon for every step you take in the office. Not everything is baseball. Just say “talk” or “check in.”

Pull the trigger on

To pull the trigger on something is to do it. It’s a long, violent phrase for something simple. It may be used to acknowledge hesitancy: most people don’t think of shooting a gun or other weapon (outside of a recreational range or video game) as done without reluctance. The problem with this phrase, in addition to its wordy, roundabout nature (16 letters that could be replaced by 2—do), is the inherent implication of violence embedded in the phrase itself.

Get any impulse you have to shout about wintery precipitation out of the way. Words have meanings. When you choose to use a violent word, you choose all the implications behind it. Given the daily experience of gun violence in America, using a phrase like pull the trigger perpetuates indifference to a culture of brutality. There are better ways to say this. Use them.

Dumb down

The entire phrase dumb down is disrespectful to whoever you are doing the dumbing down for. It implies that the person who needs the information you have is stupid, and that they are incapable of understanding complex material. While I hope you wouldn’t tell them you’re dumbing it down for them, even thinking about simplifying an idea this way makes you prone both to irritability about the communication, and to giving up on the person you’re talking to. (“I can’t dumb it down anymore!” you cry as you bang your head against your colleague’s or client’s ignorance.)

The problem here is that often when a person doesn’t understand something you understand, it’s not because you are smarter than they are. It’s because you know more and have more experience. If you assume that most people are reasonably intelligent, and that you’re making information accessible to someone with the capacity to understand, you’re much more likely to explain clearly. Further, you will be more patient when that person asks a question.

Calling a business a family

Your business is not a family. Your business is a business. It is a place where people gather to accomplish a purpose, and through that purpose, bring in money. When you call your business a family, what you’re communicating is that you and the rest of your leadership team have poor boundaries and expect the same from your staff. It’s a massive red flag for both those already working for you and those looking to work with you. You may really like your team. You may work really hard and put in a lot of hours together. But unless you are literally a family business, you are not a family. Stop saying it.


Use this list of clichés to check yourself when you communicate with your colleagues and clients. Some of these clichés are wordy, overused, and annoying, but many are also rooted in twisted analogies or disrespect. Using these phrases perpetuates a problematic mindset that taints your communications and your reputation. Resolve to communicate directly and honestly with those around you in the new year.

If you’re thinking it will be difficult to avoid these phrases you’re accustomed to (or you want to help someone else reform their use of business clichés), it doesn’t have to be hard. WordRake editing software can help. It gives track-changes style editing suggestions for removing or revising business clichés and jargon. It also helps writers cut unnecessary words and simplify complex language to improve and shorten communication. You can try WordRake free for 7 days.

Miss the beginning? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our series.

About the Author

Kate Callahan is a Marketing Specialist for WordRake. Before her passion for learning and writing led her to join the team in 2023, she worked in non-traditional education, content creation, and translation. She started her career by teaching ESL to elementary school students in Japan. You can follow her on Twitter @KateC_Writing or connect on LinkedIn.


Our Story

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggested changes appear in the familiar track-changes style. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.