Useless Starts To Sentences

Computer columnist John C. Dvorak.
Computer columnist John C. Dvorak. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I am digging through news feeds looking for material to scribe about, I am listening to The No Agenda Show.  While you can say what you wish about John C. Dvorak and Adam Curry, personally, I love their show. I have been listening to Adam since his Daily Source Code podcast.  I could not tell you how long I have read Dvorak and regardless of what he said about the PC mouse, I still think he is a required-tech-guru follow. Their snarky, critical thinking is a welcome change from the mainstream media.

As they often do, they were discussing politics.   In this instance, the recent Democratic Debates.  Mr. Dovorak presented a list of phrases that he noticed the participants often starting a sentence with… phrases that added nothing to the meaning of the sentence.

English: Adam Curry portrait
English: Adam Curry portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It dawned on my that John’s list would be a great list for a writer.  The writer could use the list in two ways.  On one hand, a writer should avoid using these phrases.  On the other, they are great phrases to use for more believable dialogue in character conversation.  I really wish I knew if these phrases have a name.  I did a bit of digging and came up empty.  I am hoping that Grammar Girl has an answer.

The only thing I discovered about them is that they act as a prompt in conversation. They alert the listener to the fact that you are about to send information.  Similar to the old “breaker one-nine” in the CB days.  Nonetheless, the list is a good one because the phrases are so commonly used, they are easy to miss in the edit. So, here is part of what they mentioned:

  • So
  • At the end of the day
  • The fact of the matter
  • The truth of the matter
  • When all is said and done
  • Literally
  • Be that as it may
  • You know what’s funny
  • Guess what
  • Listen
  • Look
  • No matter what
  • In other words (I abuse that one far too often)
  • I’m telling ya
  • That’s a good question (in my opinion, often translating to “give me a second to think of a response”)
  • Let me tell you this about that
  • Seriously
  • Well (chronically abused by President Regan)

The duo from No Agenda said they might make a site with a list of all these useless phrases.  I would love that.  I also found a similar list at Lifehacker.  I am hoping that they do create such a list.  I know more than a few people who would likely contribute.  The readers may also wish to check out No Agenda, episode 774 – Morally Deformed as they close the episode with a great mash-up of the hosts abusing “The fact of the matter”.

Thanks for reading.  Comments, tweets and any other form of feedback are welcome.