Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Avoid clichés and overused expressions in your writing

By Dennis Mellersh

One of the surest ways to ensure that the writing in your book appears non-professional and amateurish is to sprinkle clichés (overused phrases and expressions) liberally throughout your manuscript.

The very commonplace nature of clichés in our everyday speech makes it difficult to avoid incorporating them into our initial writing. So we have to go through what we have already written and edit them out.

The problem with most clichés is that they are often completely meaningless due to their derivation or symbolism being long forgotten, or they are overused business-speak or some other form of jargon.
Here are some clichés, or over-used expressions, that I could use to start my next sentence in this article:
  • The fact of the matter (cliché: what do the words actually say?)
  • In actual fact (cliché: what other kind of fact is there?)
  • In point of fact (cliché and a meaningless collection of words)
  • When all is said and done (cliché – when might that be?)
  • What this boils down to (cliché – what is boiling?)
  • In short… (cliché: why uses these words at all?)
Minus a cliché lead-in, here’s the next sentence in this article:
A lot of clichés are fun to use in speech, but they don’t add to the content of our writing and actually detract from our writing.  An exception might be if we are trying to draw a particular image of a character in a novel or short story and are using clichés in the character’s speech patterns to help establish the character’s personality through their way of talking.
A couple of common cliché’s we all might like to use in our speech: You get the picture; go figure; well…duh.
Cute, but they add little to our writing, and instead diminish it.
Many cliché’s are so old few people know their true meaning, and that’s another reason to avoid using them. Example, He’s still “wet behind the ears.” We know it means somehow that “he” is inexperienced or immature, but how many people know what the words “wet behind the ears” actually refer to?
You might want to check out some of the websites that discuss clichés and have lists of clichés. Just type cliché into Google.

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