Right around now, many people aim to improve their health or their career in the coming year, but if you're looking for a more unusual (and possibly more achievable) New Year's resolution, how about this: Tune up your speaking and writing in 2016.
We're all guilty of overusing some phrases, indulging in jargon, or simply getting sloppy about how we communicate sometimes. Why not use the end of the year as motivation to clean up your vocabulary? After all, in the age of the text message-length missive, the ability to write well is more valuable (and perhaps rarer) than ever.
Over on the blog The Freelancer, Nicholas Pell has some great suggestions for played-out or straight-up annoying words and phrases that you should jettison in 2016. Here are a few of the 15 he mentions.
1. "It's [the current year]."
"Pointing to a calendar doesn't actually explain anything," Pell sensibly points out. "Some readers might nod and pat themselves on the back in agreement, but anyone not on board will scratch their head in confusion or assume you are a lazy writer. Explain the merits of a position or don't bring it up at all."
What could possibly be the problem with "amazing"? "Amazing isn't a bad word, but it's become the national crutch for anything that's really very super awesome or really, really good ... Sadly, it's worn out its welcome, and you should use any other word you can find," says the post.
Pell's comment on this is brief but definitive: "Literally never." As a side note, he's not the only one who lists "literally" among the top language pet peeves.
4. "Little did I know."
Pell's complaint with this phrase is that it is both pompous and overused. "Approximately 90 percent or so of the 'think pieces' (a phrase I am only not banishing so that I may use it as a source of derision) running in 2015 hinged upon some 'little did I know' moment that wraps everything up into a neat little lesson. It's almost the equivalent of 'I think,' followed by the writer's opinion," he writes.
Business people are often taken to task for using jargon when plain English will do. "Leverage" is one common offender: "Of all the worn-out business jargon floating around, this has to be the worst. When leverage gets used as a verb, I immediately know I'm reading something not written for me. People writing B2B content might still find use for this worn old war horse; everyone else should drop it in favor of a clearer word."
6. "For all intents and purposes."
"Five words that introduce a statement that would probably stand on its own just fine," claims Pell.
7. "Rock star," "guru," "ninja," and "Jedi."
This one is bound to be controversial, but Pell has no time for the current trend for whimsical job titles. "There's nothing about your command of Python, PhotoShop, PowerPoint, search engine optimization, content marketing, or copywriting that makes you even remotely like any of these. You do your thing, and leave the rock stars, gurus, ninjas, and Jedis of the world to do theirs," he complains. Do you agree?
8. "Next level."
What does this phrase even mean? asks Pell. "So something is next level? Why? How? Who says so? Tell me something about your product, what it does, why I want it, and how it's going to make my life better."
Pell's list might be entertaining, but he's hardly the only resource out there if you're looking for ideas on how to improve your use of the English language next year. A Harvard linguist recently came out with a monster list of commonly misused words, my Inc.com colleague Minda Zetlin has helpfully rounded up 37 words that will make you more persuasive, and entrepreneur Ryan Robinson has compiled a list of 11 words successful people never use.
What word or phrase do you hope everyone stops using in 2016?