At The End of The Day, It’s All About Clichés

By | July 18, 2006

We journalists are a boring, predictable lot. Whether we’re in the UK, US or Australia we all use the same clichés. Well, cliché, actually: ‘at the end of the day’. Knowing I was a sucker for monitoring the Internet cliché Factiva (co-owned by Dow Jones, who owns WSJ, the paper I write for) sent me their findings, based on their text mining technology, on clichés in the media for the first six months of this year. Their findings: “at the end of the day” (uttered both by writers and presumably the people they quote) dominates all English-speaking zones.


The phrase was used more than 10,500 times in the U.S. media, more than double the next most used cliche (“in the black”). In Australia it was used 2,183 times, more than three times the next cliche (“in the red”, intriguingly, at 679 times) while the New Zealand media used it proportionally more than either of them, 639 times against 147 times for “in the red”. (Clearly Aussie and Kiwi companies not doing so well this half.)

UK media was in love with “at the end of the day” too, at 3,347 times, but that less than double “in the red” (1,877 times) and only around double “in the black” (1,628 times).

Here are the clichés monitored:

a laugh a minute
a question mark hangs over
about face
all in due time
all the way to the bank
at the end of the day
bated breath
bend over backwards
better late than never
blazing inferno
brutal reminder
burn the midnight oil
business at hand
call it a day
carnival atmosphere
chew the fat
clean bill of health concerned residents
dead cat bounce
dog eat dog
eat your own dog food
firing on all cylinders
fly by night
freak accident
full-scale search
gang busters
horror smash
hot pursuit
in the black
in the nick of time
in the red
last-ditch effort
leave no stone unturned
left at the altar
level playing field low hanging fruit
nose to the grindstone
outpouring of support
rushed to the scene
shrouded in mystery
split second
survival of the fittest
tense standoff
the eleventh hour
think outside the box
time after time
time and again
time heals all wounds
time is money
time is running out
unsung heroes
up the ante
wealth of experience
wipe the slate clean

Seems like a pretty good list to avoid. You’ve been warned!

6 thoughts on “At The End of The Day, It’s All About Clichés

  1. Thomason

    I guessed it was “bottom line” but that wasn’t even being monitored.

  2. panasianbiz

    I stumbled across your blog while I was doing some online research. Anyone who has ever studied writing knows that one should avoid cliches as much as possible; there’s always a better way to make one’s point!

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  4. Anni Poulsen

    One of my pet hates is “Wow factor” or any other “factor” combination for that matter.
    Admittedly, it is mainly used in tv programs, but is now also used in the written media.

  5. JesseCiccone

    Although I’m a professional flack, I try to fight the good fight against jargon and cliches. (I don’t always win, as the clients are the ones paying the bills…)

    While the PR industry is largely deserving of the criticism it gets in this area (often, if not mostly, from journalists), it is nice to see an admission that it happens at the other end of the phone, too!

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