“If I read one more email announcement that starts with ‘It is with mixed emotions,’ I’m going to jump out the window,” a colleague said to no one in particular. I snorted laughter into my tea, as I knew exactly what he was referencing.
The announcement in question happened to be the third of its kind in the past month — all from managers announcing their or their staff members’ intended departures. All three had started with, “It is with mixed emotions.”
Does this saying capture what the writer was feeling? Absolutely. But that’s the thing about trite sayings — they’re accurate. They’re so accurate, people say them all the time, rendering them somewhat insincere and making readers want to jump out a window.
As a communications professional, it’s your job to find a new way to say old things. Here’s a few hints on how to do that.
Bust Out the Thesaurus
If you haven’t seen a thesaurus since high school, it’s about time you refamiliarize yourself. Because it’s so helpful, it almost feels like cheating.
I’ve got Thesaurus.com saved as a bookmark in my browser, and I use it at least twice a week. Just type in the worn-out word you’re tempted to use, hit enter, and watch as at least a dozen other options appear right before your eyes.
It might sound weird, but start typing, “what’s another way to say…” into Google and you’ll find you’re not the first person to use it for this purpose. You’re not going to get a perfectly unused, genius saying in the results, but you’ll get a lot of inspiration on how to create one.
Take It Apart
Like I said before, cliched phrases tend to perfectly describe how we feel. So when we try to rewrite them, we’re tempted to structure the sentence in the same way. “It is with mixed emotions,” turns into, “It is with deep regret,” and then just gets worse from there.
Try taking the sentence apart and evaluate what you’re trying to say. You’re sad this person is leaving, but you’re happy and maybe even proud of their drive and initiative in finding a better opportunity. There’s nothing wrong with saying exactly that…so go ahead and say it!
These tricks work for all kinds of trite sayings. Whether you’re on the verge of talking about “getting your ducks in a row,” “breaking down silos,” or “using cutting-edge technology,” there’s probably a better, fresher way to say it. It just takes a little effort.
For fun, here are a few more great (and by great, I mean awful) trite sayings used in the business world. Have a good laugh, then vow to never, ever use them. Ever.