Michael Williams: Readers' Editor

At the end of the day, it's Christmas. As if...


A lot of you out there are clearly not happy bunnies. It literally boggles my mind the awesome number of complaints I get on a weekly basis about clichs that appear in 'The Independent on Sunday' and elsewhere often emerging from the mouths of politicians and people in official positions who should know better.

At the end of the day, it's not rocket science to think out of the box and stop using tired old phrases like 24/7, "blue sky thinking" and "reality check". Going ballistic like me? Then at least we're basically singing from the same hymn sheet.

George Orwell once said: "Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print." Well, he was a diamond geezer and his advice is a no-brainer.

So here is the Readers' Editor's list of the most annoying clichs of 2007, compiled with the help of my ever-watchful correspondents:

"No problem." There wasn't a problem till people started saying, "No problem".

"Too much information." Well, that's already three words too many.

"To be perfectly honest." Here comes a big lie.

"I want to make it absolutely clear." Another big lie coming.

"I hear what you're saying." But I'm going to ignore it.

"Your custom is valuable to us." So much that I'll keep you hanging on the line for half an hour.

"It is interesting to note that ..." Well, if it's not, don't bother to write it.

"Glass half full ..." I have to confess I used this dreadful phrase in a column a few months ago, but found my glass half empty by the time I'd read your complaints.

"Major breakthrough." If it's a breakthrough, then what else is it going to be?

"Kick in." Whatever happened to "take effect"?

"Been there, done that, got the T-shirt." Pity you didn't stay at home in the first place.

"Between a rock and a hard place." Overworked even before City page editors did it to death in the Northern Rock fiasco.

"I've already answered that question." (Politician to interviewer.) Actually, I haven't at all and I'm trying to bully you.

"At the end of the day." Why don't people do anything at the start of the day any more?

"Hopefully." As Bill Bryson writes: "If a newspaper says: 'Hopefully the strike ends today', who's doing the hoping? The writer? The strikers? All right-thinking people? Too often the word is used as an easy escape from taking responsibility for a sentiment."

"Not/As if." It's cool to put them at the end of a sentence? Not. As if.

"But I shan't go to the wire over it." My researches reveal this to be one of the most overused clichs in the 'Independent' titles this year. (Sports writers, please note.)

Instead of going to the wire, I'm off to the Dog and Duck to wet my whistle, and if you have any more suggestions I'm sure your people will talk to my people. Don't push the envelope over Christmas and I wish you a clich-free New Year.

Message Board: Bali: a good deal for all or too little too late?

Action on climate change that won the backing of the world's governments and left the US out in the cold had bloggers arguing over its merits, at ios.typepad.com. To have your say on this or any other issue visit www.independent.co.uk/IoSblogs

John: This latest meeting has given us some hope but not much. The US verbal agreement almost amounts to no agreement. American Indians can testify to all the broken promises from their past.

David Vintner: We are thinking about making deep cuts that will reduce CO2 but what about methane? And I have heard not a whisper about the desperately needed reductions in world population growth.

Yugen: Excellent to see the US getting a slap in the face, even if the joy is only short-lived. Great.

Colin Maddock: It is wonderful, beyond words, to see the US getting plenty of flak over its obstinate position on the climate-change talks in Bali. Yes, step out of the way USA, you are wrecking this planet.

Hana Lee: In the Philippines we are painfully aware of the consequences of global warming for our fisheries and farms. We have tried for years to get affordable solar power. Why can't rich countries share this technology affordably?

Mark: The entire global-warming scam is about anti-Americanism and wrecking the US economy. The people of my country will do what we believe is best for our wellbeing and if you don't like it, too bad. We owe you nothing.

James: You owe us nothing? Typically selfish US comment. Try thinking about other people for a change.

Tony: The US has successfully watered down any commitment to be no commitment. Perhaps we could all stop trading with the US, then what would it do?

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