I once came across the idiom "bar none" for "by far/with no exceptions" as in "He's bar none the best player on the team", after what (for some reason unbeknownst to my forty three year old self) it was forgotten and fell into oblivion...until just recently, as I came to rediscover it sometime earlier today searching the Net for some other expression I previously posted about.

And so, I wish someone would tell me whether this idiom is acceptable for all English registers, or definitely belongs to informal, colloquial usage and, as such, should be best avoided in formal style.


Bill is bar none the most talented photographer... http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=703015

2 Answers 2


It would be acceptable any place that idioms are usually acceptable, which is to say it is slightly informal but not very informal. It would be ok in magazine writing -- think Slate or Rolling Stone -- but not in academic writing, hard news (i.e., newspaper articles reporting news), and the like.

  • How about in such newspapers as "The International Herald Tribune" or "The New York Times", would it belong here? Also, is it safe to use for "not so formal" business letters and emails?
    – Elian
    Feb 13, 2014 at 19:13
  • IHT is actually now the "International New York Times". I think too informal for either, except perhaps on the opinion page. Informal business emails, sure. If you're writing an actual letter, that's probably formal enough that it's best to skip it. Feb 13, 2014 at 23:22
  • (Context Britain:) In terms of register I don't think it's about formality, but that it carries a tiny emotional component of "excitement", in the sense that it's a similar to raising your voice above a monotone for emphasis (almost always fine!). So in a church reading, say, (certainly a formal setting), it would be fine. Similarly a reporter doing a to-camera piece, even in a war zone. But if it is a context where if spoken the right thing to do is to "look straight ahead and say all the words clearly" (eg a court statement, patient of a surgeon, headline news) you'd probably not use it.
    – Dan
    Nov 15, 2022 at 9:01

"Bar none" doesn't really mean "by far". It's actually closer to "without exception".

It's not necessarily colloquial, but in formal usage, I would avoid it only because it adds nothing to the sentence but emphasis. Saying "Bill is the most talented photographer" still gives the same amount of information -- namely that the speaker does not believe anyone surpasses Bill's photography talent.

  • 1
    I pretty much agree with you on that but with one sizable exception: "Bar none" sitting with "most" in the phrase accentuates the idea of something exceptional, unique, which is not that necessarily perceivable with "most" sitting alone.
    – Elian
    Feb 13, 2014 at 19:39
  • @NourishedGourmet Right. It adds emphasis. There may be circumstances where that is appropriate.
    – Roger
    Feb 13, 2014 at 19:41
  • 1
    I agree with Roger fully. A phrase that literally means "except for none" does indeed accentuate that idea of exceptional, but in more formal writing one aims to be a little drier. Mild expletives will also add emphasis, but you wouldn't use them in formal writing! "Bar none" can be used in more polite registers than expletives, but in the most formal registers, if you really need to underline something being far greater (or lesser) than anything else, then do so by demonstration, not by turn of phrase.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 13, 2014 at 19:43
  • I would never use it other than in an informal register to achieve emphasis. But it sounds a trifle more sophisticated if you say 'bar no one'.
    – WS2
    Feb 13, 2014 at 21:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.