The phrase Words Have Power  on a BlackboardInstead of a grammar post today, this will be a bit of a rant, but hopefully a gentle, thoughtful rant.

There’s a phrase that bothers me every time I hear it. I know what is meant by it, but still it bothers me. Very often, people who work for a cause with great dedication are said to “work tirelessly” for that cause. I think we do them, and their deep commitment to what they believe in, a disservice by saying this.

As I said, I know it is well-meant, but truthfully, are any of these people really tireless? I think it says more about them to acknowledge that they sometimes work until they are exhausted, but they continue despite this because the work that they do is important to them.

Like most clichés, this one is perhaps the easy way out — it lets the speaker praise the person without having to find original, well thought out words to indicate the true depth of the person’s devotion. Clichés can be used too easily, as anyone who has had their writing critiqued will know — one is warned over and over not to use them.

So why do we use them? Is it ease of use? Commonality? A knowledge that the listener or reader will “get” what we mean? Laziness? Or something else?

What are your thoughts? Is there a cliché that you think shortchanges the actual experience?


The Grammar Owl will likely return next month. If you have a grammar or word-use question you’d like the Owl (or me) to address, please leave it in the comments, or contact me at mail (at) flubs2fixes (dot) com. We like answering questions!

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