November 21st, 2014 donnahoke



A few weeks ago, in the midst of reading submissions, I started a mini-tweetfest of lines that should be eliminated from plays entirely. With a hashtag of #retirethisline, I sent out a bunch of tweets, and encouraged some others. Because Twitter is fast and furious and they were easy to miss, I thought I’d repeat them here, and encourage readers to join in both here and on Twitter; if I get enough, I’ll do a Part Two.


1. “What do you always say about…?” (uh-oh, we’re about to find out…)

2. “If you hurt my x, I’ll hurt you.”

3. “That’s exactly what I said, and I mean it.” (along with any line that ever comes before this)

4. “I said, ‘Get out!’

5. “You’re not listening!” (Cue the repeat.)

6. “Let’s keep this between you and I.” (Eyes and ears bleeding… aren’t we writers, after all?)

7. “Are you kidding me right now?” (Even without the right now.)

8. “You’re obviously upset.”

9. “What do you mean?”

10. “Remember when…” (“ugh, blood curdles every time,” says tweeter; mine too)

11. “What I’m trying to say is…”

12. “As if you didn’t know!”

13. “It’s been a long day” as an excuse for rudeness to strangers, odd behaviors, etc.

14. “I can’t take this anymore!”

15. “As you’ve never seen him/her before.”

16. “In a world where…”

17. “You’ve got to be joking” and the corollary

18. “I’m just messing with you.”

19. “It’s good to see you; it’s been too long.”

20. “That would have been awkward.”

21. “You are my favorite x.” “I’m your only x,” and all permutations thereof.

22. “Do I look that stupid to you?”

23. “You’re my x, and I love you.”

24. “I can do you one better,” and the one ALL theatergoers and purveyors of entertainment should axe asap:

25. “Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.”


What are YOURS?



Written by donnahoke


Dramatists Guild Council member and ensemble playwright-in-residence at Road Less Traveled Productions, Kilroys List and award-winning playwright Donna Hoke’s work has been seen in 46 states, and on five continents. Her full-length plays include ELEVATOR GIRL (2017 O’Neill finalist), THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR (Princess Grace semi-finalist, currently in its fourth year in rep in Romania), SAFE (winner of the Todd McNerney, Naatak, and Great Gay Play and Musical Contests), and BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART (2016 Kilroys List, Winner HRC Showcase, Firehouse Festival of New American Plays); she’s also authored more than three dozen short plays that have had hundreds of productions, and has been nominated for both the Francesca Primus and Susan Blackburn prizes. She’s also a two-time winner of the Emanuel Fried Award for Best New Play (SEEDS, SONS & LOVERS).

Donna is also a New York Times-published crossword puzzle constructor; author of Neko and the Twiggets, a children’s book; and founder/co-curator of BUA Takes 10: GLBT Short Stories. For three consecutive years, she was named Buffalo’s Best Writer by Artvoice, the only woman to ever receive the designation.

In addition, Donna is a blogger, advocate, and moderator of the 12,000+-member Official Playwrights of Facebook. Recent speaking engagements include Citywrights, Kenyon Playwrights Conference, the Dramatists Guild National Conference, Chicago Dramatists, Austin Film Festival, and a live Dramatists Guild webinar. Her commentary has been read at #2amt, howlround, the Official Playwrights of Facebook, the newly released Workshopping the New Play, and donnahoke.com.

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  1. 1 Steve said at 9:08 am on November 21st, 2014:

    “Let me ask you this …”
    “I’ll tell you what I mean …”

    I know I’ve used some of these lines in my writing, so now it’s time for a “search-and-destroy” mission.

  2. 2 Tim Lane said at 10:52 am on November 21st, 2014:

    I’m not sure I’d want to live IN A WORLD where IN A WORLD isn’t IN A WORLD.

  3. 3 donnahoke said at 10:53 am on November 21st, 2014:

    I want to live in a world where I have any idea what that means lol!

  4. 4 Benjamin V. Marshall said at 4:03 pm on November 21st, 2014:

    We need to talk. ( This appears more in TV and Movies.)

  5. 5 Chas Belov said at 9:57 pm on November 28th, 2014:

    I’ve had to excise some of those from early drafts in my time.

    How about “Then what happened?” or “What did you say?” but thankfully, those don’t come up too often.

    As for “Let’s keep this between you and I.” are you saying that characters don’t make grammatical errors?

  6. 6 donnahoke said at 7:57 am on November 29th, 2014:

    Oh, yes, characters DO make grammatical errors, but more often than not, given the character who’s talking, I suspect it’s the playwright making them. And it takes me right out.

  7. 7 Jack Brezina said at 7:59 pm on December 29th, 2016:

    The one that always makes me cringe is: “Why are acting like this?” I am always waiting for someone in the audience to shout, “Good question!”

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