Monday, August 10, 2009

Avoiding cliches in writing

It's so easy to fall into the habit of using cliches that are used in everyday speech at the work place and TV. They have become part of our daily dialogue. Then add in the text-speak and before you know it you're mixing apples (your grandmother's old sayings) with oranges (your kids' new ones).

The practice comes naturally when I'm writing and I have to go back and edit them out of my blog posts and written work. That can be challenging when I'm over-exposed to the latest trends in newspapers, people and contemporary fiction. I'll give you an example. When titling this blog, I had to resist using the words, "What not to do when..." How often do you see that in the title of a magazine article or post?

Here are some of my favorites, most taken from talking heads (oops!), I mean panelists on news shows. Pay attention next time you're watching. "At the end of the day" you'll see what I mean. "Take a listen" to what the Senator said in a meeting.... During the Clinton days, every change in opinion was referred to as "waffling." Now, the current administration "flip-flops" on policy decisions. This is not intended to leave out the Republicans. Last year, I thought I'd choke if I heard one more person refer to Cheney's whereabouts as an "undisclosed location." With Bush, well, I can't think of a particular one. Every time he opened his mouth I thought, "Has he ever heard of Toastmasters?"

But I digress (oops)! Excuse me because I have lost my train of thought (oops!) Now that I'm off topic (oops!). Writers are supposed to convey original thoughts, not regurgitate the slang of the day. That's what differentiates us from people in other professions. Imagine picking up a book 30 years from now and expecting someone to know what a BFF is? If you want your work to have a life span of more than a year, think before you write.

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