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There is no value in that which is common!

Stephanie purchased a very stylish $850 handbag from one of the esteemed designer brands. Later that evening, she decided to take the new "show-piece" to a function. She walked into the glamorous edficie and her smile of excitement suddenly changed to a sulk of disappointment. What could have happened? She was in high spirits just before arriving at the event. Well, the reason is she saw three other women at the event, wearing the same handbag! There is not much value in that which is common.

From one culture to another and from country to country, people have common phrases and words they say all the time. Sometimes, those expressions may be grammatically incorrect but still get used quite often. According to Samuel Jonathan, that which is common is not necessarily correct. There are even times when those words or excessively-used expressions are not necessary.

In England, the top 5 words and phrases most commonly used include:

Crossing the seas to the African continent, here are five of the commonly used phrases during speeches or media interviews in Ghana:

1.Plans are far advanced

2. As you are all aware

3. Cherished customers

4. All protocol observed

5. The ordinary Ghanaian

The truth is, regardless of your location and all other things being equal, there is nothing of value in that which is common. An individual who desires to articulate their ideas, insight and illustrations in a convincing manner seldom uses common phrases that are predictable. One of the dangers of using expressions that have been overused is the audience can easily complete your sentences. Why should they listen to you? The Speaker sounds redundant and ineffective because people have heard it before. If your daily bread or career advancement depends on what you say and how you say it, you fully understand that the mark of distinction can be readily established in your delivery.


The two leading reasons we have identified for the frequent use of common phrases and expressions are:

a) Poor vocabulary

b) The laziness to learn new words

You simply cannot give what you do not have. Therefore, the first step towards overcoming this weakness is to invest in a dictionary. A printed dictionary can be useful for those who prefer holding a book in their hands. An online dictionary with an audio pronounciation facility can be very instrumental, especially for those who will like to learn the proper pronounciation. Knowing a word but not pronouncing it well can be detrimental to your presentation.

Secondly, understanding the intent of the content will enable you come up with meaningful alternatives. For example, when a person says "I'm afraid ..." are they scared or fearful at that point in time? It is very unlikely to be a matter of fear. It has simply become habitual to start a sentence that may sound unfavourable to the hearer (or audience) with the phrase "I'm afraid". If the intent is to say that the circumstance or outcome is not what the hearer or audience wants to hear, "I'm afraid" can be replaced with "I regret ..." or "We are apologise that ...".

You can re-arrange the content without distorting the intent - Samuel Jonathan

Another one is "Obviously". An ideal replacement can be "It is evident" or "We can see". Sometimes, there is no need to replace some of these habitual phrases. Rather than replace them, they can be removed and not compromise the comprehension of your audience.

When an individual says "As you are all aware" or "As you all know", there are times when that is not true. Not everyone is aware! The intent of the statement is to convey that whatever is being spoken about is not new or is well known. "It is common knowledge" may be an ideal substitute. You may not necessarily agree with the suggested replacements. However, the objective of this learning point is to give careful thought to some of our excessively-used phrases and replace them with meaningful ones. It is very refreshing to be in the audience of a Speaker who abstains from the common phrases. Your audience will be more attentive to your presentation, more engaged and consequentially, you will enjoy it too.

About the Author

Samuel is a well-respected Public Speaking Coach and Presentation Mastery Trainer. Leaders, managers, media practitioners and public figures from 13 countries have benefitted from his iconic coaching legacy. He has received over 3,000 testimonials and is well-loved by his clients. 98.5% of his clients rate his coaching style as "Excellent". He has authored 286 resources, courses and training materials, including the first public speaking audio-coaching programme in Africa, "Speaking and Beyond". Samuel is happily married to Lynda and is based at our UK office in the West Midlands. Contact Samuel

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