While working a dealer table at a convention a while back, I was chatting with an author-friend about his writing, and when I mentioned his pet "too-frequently-used phrase" I worded it as "the [author name here] drinking game." As in, "He used that phrase again. Drink!"
We're good enough friends that I knew I could do so without offending him, even in front of our colleagues. But I was surprised when everyone else sitting at the table was so amused that they immediately wanted to know what I considered the "drinking game" in their writing.
Usually, I make a comment in the formal editorial letter that accompanies the draft, to the effect of "You may want to search on this phrase, which appears many times throughout the manuscript, and make substitutions for it in some instances." In the manuscript I'm working on now, for one of the authors who was at that table for that conversation, I highlighted the offending phrase each time it appeared, and commented "Drink!" in the margin.
It's not that the drinking-game phrase can't ever appear in the manuscript. It's about being aware of how often you use it.