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Public Editor: Sexy, game changer, plus other clichés and overworked phrases

Recently, I wrote about the clichés and overworked phrases that drive readers up the wall. It sure resonated with our audience, who sent a bucketful of irritants my way.

Let's start with one phrase that writers should stop using. It's been used 19 times in The Globe in the past year -- "falls on deaf ears." A mother of a deaf university graduate wrote in to say it is "always in a negative context, suggesting those who are in fact deaf … cannot think or are unwilling or unable to respond to ideas or engage in real debate. This loose derogatory language creates the impression that deafness creates a simple, incapable and illiterate mind."

She is completely right and it should stop. Far better to use "it was ignored" or "disregarded." Let's not inadvertently insult each other.

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Here are the rest of those overworked phrases chosen by the readers.

1. The winner by a mile: "Going forward." A buzz word, said one reader. Meaningless corporate jargon, said another. "Going forward, please get it banned from The Globe and Mail," a reader said. I don't know about banning, but let's avoid it like the plague.

2. "Sexy." One reader wrote: "Surely the laziest, and the least apt adjective tossed around today is 'sexy' as in a 'sexy solution to today's pressing problems'." I agree. Let's keep "sexy" to mean just that!

3. Sports analogies in non-sports stories like "game changer", "move the yardsticks" etc.

4. Saying "ahead of" instead of "before." One reader complained: "Ahead of is properly a spatial phrase… I stand ahead of you in line … But the pack journalists will tell us the Prime Minister met with the Premiers ahead of the Paris climate talks."

5. "Ubiquitous." One reader believes ubiquitous has become just that.

6. Wasted words like "actually" and "well". One reader said it's clearly meant to sound like a conversation, but it's just throat clearing.

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7. "Iconic." One reader wrote: "A vogue word both overused and misused. It is routinely applied to buildings, athletes, articles of clothing, motor vehicles, musical instruments, beer, burgers, ice cream flavours and many other things that in no way merit the adjective. Could you please arrange to ensure that in the future its application is restricted primarily to small statues in Orthodox churches?"

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