This morning, I just read – again – an old article published by The Atlantic Wire. Titled “A Literal Epidemic of Crutch Words“, the article highlights words and phrases that we tend to use loosely, both in formal and informal conversation. Going through the list, I couldn’t help but think that writers are not exempt from leaning on crutch words and phrases.
Here are some of the phrases/words that I see often – and might have a beef with.
Exponentially. “How could you leave out exponentially, a crutch word that might be used accurately once in a thousand times? Something grows exponentially when it grows by the same factor repeatedly over many periods of time, as in compound interest or the population of rabbits in the absence of predators. The exponent can be negative as well, but when used as a crutch the speaker never is referring to that aspect!”
Going forward. Better to give an actual implementation/start date to which one will go forward, because save a time machine, we are not going backward. A commenter says of this one, simply, “Ugh.”
If you will. One commenter marks it as the sure sign of a whopper, making an example of Dick Cheney: “They’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.”
In fairness/to be fair. The thing about life is, nothing is, though your sense of justice in in the right place. But also, why be fair? Just be sure of what you want to say.
There’s more where those phrases came from, but be prepared to feel a sting or two if (when?) you see your crutch word/phrase made fun of. The truth hurts, but the chances are you have you own set of phrases and words that you automatically use for certain scenarios. I think I have dwelled on this topic before, and I am the first to cringe whenever I see myself overusing words such as “actually”, “truth be told”, “at the end of the day”, and “awesome”.
What does it mean if you use crutch words?
I don’t think it means you’re a bad writer. It probably just means you need to read more, shake up your writing a bit, and stop working on autopilot. That’s what I have been telling myself all day!
What are your crutch words?
Image via Darrelhoff