One of my biggest pet peeves has to be diction-related. Choosing the right words is half the battle in communication—the other half being arranging them into sensible sentences (i.e., grammar)—and people far too often skimp on it. They choose the hackneyed, convenient phrase rather than their own formulation. Or they communicate through cliché, thinking that the familiarity with the phrasings their audience enjoys will translate into their doing most of the cognitive work. Those sorts of things are imprecise and woozy. When I listen to someone, I want to be engaged, to be inspired to ever-greater cognitive heights. Instead, I often trudge through insipid inanities—mired down in verbal sludge of vagueness.
Yet I still enjoy commiserating about this. Jeremy Zawodny related his experiences recently but the best page I’ve found so far is Banned for Life, a Tom Mangan production (NOTE: he’s the guy who did the Seven Questions interviews awhile back). This is a very comprehensive list of things that bother Tom and his readers and I agree with nearly all of them.
One of the readers comments, “Do we ever sound so stupid when we try to sound smart?” Hear, hear!