Phrases That Tick People Off

Stuck in traffic one night, I was station surfing on the car radio trying to find a station that was airing something other than ads. I landed on one station in time to hear John Tesh starting to discuss one of the night’s bits of what he calls random intelligence. The list of the moment: the ten most offensive phrases you can use in oral or written communication. Being a writer, I couldn’t help but listen.

The list came from a survey conducted by Meryl Runion at SpeakStrong. In reverse order, the list includes:

  • I’m done with you.
  • I don’t care.
  • I couldn’t care less.
  • If you say so.
  • I’m just a clerk.
  • Bite me.
  • Whatever.
  • What’s your problem?
  • It’s not my job.
  • Shut up.

The full article on Runion’s Web site briefly describes why each phrase offends, as well as its obnoxiousness rating (as voted on by her readers). If you pillage her newsletter archives, you can find links to other “poison phrases,” such as:

  • I guess that’s okay.
  • It’s easy.
  • No one tells me anything.
  • Settle down.
  • I’ll let you take care of this.

To any of her lists, I would add a word that I think is profoundly obnoxious—“obviously.” I have yet to see or hear “obviously” used in a sentence that a) didn’t sound utterly condescending and b) wouldn’t leave the reader feeling like a big idiot if they didn’t know that which “should be obvious.”

What would you add?

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