As a copywriter, I’m a lover of the English language, but there are some things I cannot abide. Using basically to start a conversation or a sentence is one of those things.

It has to be outlawed.

Why? The number of times I have heard the word ‘basically’ used to begin a conversation that keeps me on the phone for 30 minutes or in a meeting that creeps past clocking-off time is intolerable.

It’s an unnecessary requirement in conversation but has become so ingrained in the way people communicate, I fear that it’s impossible to undo.

Therefore, I propose that people using it to start a sentence, then subjecting those within earshot to endure 30 minutes of them talking about an issue that could have been solved in 5 minutes, should be jailed.

Too extreme? I’m working on the theory that if ringing up the police to talk to them for half-an-hour about parking violations constitutes wasting police time, an arrestable offence, then the same principle should apply to the use of the word ‘basically’ followed by 30 minutes of chatter because I’m never going to get that time back.

It’s wasting my time.

Basically has become all too common in the workplace

What has prompted me to rant about a word that is being widely used out of context?

The workplace. All too often, when a situation arises that needs a simple explanation, I hear the ‘dreaded word’ and some time later the explanation is still going.

If you ask me, the word basically has become a massive hindrance to workplace productivity.

It seems that, whenever an explanation for something is required, basically has become the word of choice to begin giving an explanation and what makes me irate is that what follows is far from basic.


When you hear the word basically, run.

When basically is far from basic

“Basically, the wheel on his bike came off. This was because the nuts holding the wheel in place came loose. The bike’s fork then started dragging along the floor creating sparks that flew into his eyes. He wasn’t able to see and as a result, he let go of the handlebars and fell off the saddle.

He was seriously injured, sustaining a broken leg, two broken ribs, a punctured lung and severe cuts to his arms and face. The ambulance arrived and proceeded to give him oxygen before securing him to a stretcher and lifting him into the ambulance. He has been given morphine and he’s on his way to XXXXXX hospital.”

This was the ‘basic’ explanation of a teacher informing a parent that their child had been involved in an accident on their way home from school, delaying the parent by 10 minutes, time that could have been cut off the journey time to the hospital.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the teacher should have said something like this:

XXXX has had an accident on his bike, he’s seriously hurt and on his way to XXXXXX hospital.”

Even if I’d used the word basically at the start of this sentence, what followed would have been true to the use of the word. My point is if you’re going to use the word basically, keep it basic.

There must be a reason why people do it

I’m not ignorant to the fact that there’s a reason why people do this in conversation, after all, basically is not the only word used in a way that’s not needed. Literally, for instance, is another of the offending words.

Therefore, as much as this blog post is a rant, it’s also a cry for an explanation. If you have any thoughts on this, then post a comment. Psychologists, your input on this would be fascinating.

Until next time…

Daniel Waldron