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It Goes Without Saying

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.  When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.

It Goes Without Saying

This is an overused idiom that doesn’t need to be said.

When we say something goes without saying, we mean that it is obvious; it is generally understood or accepted; it is so well-known that it doesn’t need to be spoken or explained.

This idiom is often just a transitional phrase or a more colorful way of saying ‘obviously.’ For example: “It goes without saying you should apply sunscreen.”

So either say it or don’t.


I love collecting lists of worthless phrases that constantly populate our vocabulary.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • “To be honest with you” (NowI don’t believe you.)
  • During a meeting: “Can I interrupt?” (What if you said No?)
  • “I think we can definitely do that.” (This response does not inspire confidence.)
  • “Oh, Millennials!” (Blame it on an entire generation.)
  • “I am sooo busy!” (Aren’t you special? No one else is busy!)
  • In a press release: “the leading solution provider…” (No reporter believes this about your company.)
  • “It is what it is.”  (It is annoying.)
  • “I personally feel.”  (Redundant, redundant.)
  • “You need to be more passionate.” (You can’t make people feel passionate.)
  • The word “social” as a noun, as in, “Acme does social really well.”  (Being social means having friends, not selling product.)
  • “Going forward”  (Meaning “from now on” as if you could also dictate past behavior.)
  • “No offense”  (Which means “I am about to offend you.”)
  • “I’m confused”  (Which means “You’re confused, and I am going to set you straight.”)
  • Ideation (What??)
  • “Circle back”  (Which means to bring your Conestoga wagon back into a circle.)
  • “True that.” (??)
  • “With all due respect…”  (Hearing that phrase, buckle-up: The words that follow will certainly bear no relation to “respect” or any recognized synonym.)
  • “At any rate…”  (It is so seldom used in connection with a literal rate of any sort.)
  • “To make a long story short” (Already makes your story six words longer.)

My Point

I’m sure you are wondering where I’m going with this (another idiom).

I enjoy it when writers and speakers cleverly use idioms and catchphrases.  Those guys are the professionals.

The rest of us should stick with what we know and avoid trying to impress by “fluffing up” our speech and writing.

Here are several useful rules to follow.

  • Beat around the bush – This means to avoid saying what you mean, usually because it is uncomfortable, or talking about everything but what you should be talking about or mentioning. Say what you mean in as few words as possible.
  • Bite the bullet – This means to get something over with because it is inevitable. Say it and be done with it.
  • Cut somebody some slack – you are trying not to be so critical or trying to provide an additional chance. It’s the idea of giving someone rope to either save themselves or hang themselves. 
  • Get your act together – This idiom basically means that someone needs to do better, get their act together, get organized, and obtain results.  Be bold so there is no misunderstanding.
  • Give someone the benefit of the doubt – This means to decide that you will believe someone, even though you are not sure that what the person is saying is true. If there is a time and place to waffle, this is it.

The Bible

In all our communications, we need to avoid unnecessary words and fillers.  We need to say what we mean and be done with it.

This is clearly the approach in the Bible.

Ecclesiastes 6:11 says,

For there are many words which increase futility.  What then is the advantage to a man?

Matthew 12:36 says,

But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.

2 Timothy 2:14 says,

Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.

And Jeremiah 7:8 says,

“Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail.


Say what you mean and mean it. 

Nearly all disagreements are founded on an inability to communicate.  God doesn’t mince words, and neither should we.