How many times have you heard in the media, “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!” It’s a cliché that simply means there’s more to say on the subject, but we don’t know definitely yet.
Clichés are basically phrases that have been used so often they’re basically meaningless fillers – boring, old, a reason to turn off.
As a corporate communication trainer, I used to string them together like this (with credit to the late Tripp Frohlichstein, Kirkwood media guru): “Clichés are like a 10-foot pole, cross that bridge when you come to it, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.” Audiences got the point and laughed, then realized they were guilty, too. Don’t waste time. Say what you really mean.
Acronyms fall under the same category. For example, what does ADA mean? If you just throw that out there in a speech, the meaning to each person depends on his or her own personal experience. For example, the most frequent answer among my clients is the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you’re a teacher, it may be average daily attendance. So potentially the people you’re speaking to are confused until you define your term – a very important and worthy use of four seconds before the use of the acronym. For example, “According to the American Dairy Association, the ADA … ”
Another cliché is when individuals say, “No problem.” Say I walk into a gas station and make my cup of morning coffee, then take my precious creation to the cashier. I give him my $2, and he gives me change. After I say, “Thank you” in this scenario, he says, “No problem.” Imagine rather than him saying, “No problem,” though, he says, “You’re welcome.” It’s subliminal, really, but as the customer, do I want to be a “problem” or feel “welcome”?
Avoiding clichés and acronyms brings your remarks up to date and makes them much more understandable quickly. Quick and concise are essential today. Replace mindless phrases with short sentences with active verbs that get right to the point. Accepting old, overused phrases can be a problem and a worry impeding clear communication. – and that’s no cliché!