We have all been in situations where we hear or read something and think to ourselves: “I wish I had said or written that”. These are perfect phrases: memorable quotes and ways of expressing ideas that can be used time and again for certain occasions and events.
First, let’s look at what perfect phrases are not. They are not idioms. Many idioms, such as “all’s well that ends well” or “every cloud has a silver lining”, started off as perfect phrases, but they have become so commonly used that they have lost much of their power. Many of them have become clichés. These are not phrases we would want to use on every occasion.
Perfect phrases are sentences or even paragraphs that summarise a situation in a new way or help to encapsulate exactly what we feel about something. Many quotations from literature fall into this category. For instance, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” is a quotation from Dr Seuss that helps us look afresh at a happy event, or “you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”, which is a quote from Mae West. See how these quotes are often humorous!
On a more practical level, we can find perfect phrases for many specific events in life: interviews, performance appraisals, speeches or motivating a team. When preparing for an event where you know you will have to speak, it is very worthwhile researching phrases you can use or adapt for your own purposes. For instance, if you are in a performance appraisal, positive vocabulary and simple sentence construction will give a very good impression.
In order to be able to utilise perfect phrases, keep a notebook, or a memo on your computer, and make sure you write down the examples you come across. You may find them in movies, television chat shows and even in your children’s writing. The discipline of recording them will help you remember these perfect phrases so you can use them naturally when the appropriate time comes!