How many times do we hear the phrase “no offense” before hearing some sort of insult or criticism? I hear it all the time. It’s almost used as a free pass. As long as we say “no offense” before saying something, nobody gets hurt, right?
When I was in sixth grade, we had an indoor recess (my favorite). I was getting all my papers ready for my independent, free-choice writing time, when one of my “friends” approached me. “Um, no offense, but you know what I heard? I heard that you’re a piece of crap. Sorry.” Oh! There was a no offense in there–and a sorry, too. You basically just insulted my entire existence, but you know what? No offense taken! No, my response to the girl was not that sarcastic or witty. I think I stared off into the wall and choked out, “Really?” in a typical me-fashion.
Anyway, my point is that I really don’t like hearing that phrase. (Although I do find myself slipping up and saying it sometimes. Call me a hypocrite, but we’re all human.) Too often, it’s used as a poor justification for being unkind. When I hear “no offense,” I really hear “I’m about to say something mean, but I’m covering it up.”
When it’s used in criticism, it’s best to just reword things. Instead of “no offense, but I really hated the part of the story where you wrote___” one could say “I didn’t like___because___, and I think___would make it better.” It’s more constructive that way, anyway.