The Grammarphobia Blog

Backward thinking?

Q: I hear the expression “going forward” used more and more these days. Why do so many people place it at the end of an explanation that is already complete? Two examples: “Here’s what we plan to do going forward” and “This is what I see happening going forward.”

A: I too continue to notice the annoying expression “going forward.” What would be the alternative? “Going backward”?

It allows the speaker or writer to get across a very banal idea (“sometime in the future”) without committing himself to such an empty phrase. Instead, he can substitute one that’s even emptier but sounds trendy and authoritative.

Most likely, speakers of bureaucratese prefer “going forward” until they reach “the end of the day.”

A few of years back an organization campaigning for plain English issued its list of the most clichéd clichés. At the top was “at the end of the day.”

Other clunkers (not necessarily in this order) were “24/7,” “let’s touch base,” “bottom line,” “with all due respect,” “between a rock and a hard place,” “at this moment in time,” “to be honest,” “I hear what you are saying” and (stop! stop!) “going forward.”

I’d like to add “thinking outside the box,” “win-win situation,” and “I can’t speak to that.”

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