50+ reasons why clichés suck

18 Nov

At the end of the day, I hate clichés. I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about my cliché fury for a while now. Today I decided to finally jot it down, because you shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

I’m in an inspiring setting to write about my most-loathed clichés. I’m seated at my desk in front of an open sashless window. The sun is caressing the keyboard and there is a soft breeze wafting in. There really is no place like home.

First things first, I took to Twitter to gather other people’s thoughts about clichés. As they say, many hands make light work. Many hands also help me poach other people’s ideas. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any tweets in reply. But this list should be as easy as pie.

For what it’s worth, I think clichés allow writers to be lazy. I know that in these tough economic times, the Australian people have other things to worry about than weary writers and cliché-peppered copy. But it’s time to do an about face, people! Let’s make a last-ditch effort to eradicate clichés from all newspaper copy, headlines, classrooms and blog posts (except this one).

Surely there is going to be an outpouring of support for the cause. For all intents and purposes, we need to abandon ship on the cliché front.

In a split second, a piece of thoughtful, pristine prose could be overturned by a wayward cliché. The copy might seem above board, but look harder and you will see that the writer has an ace up his sleeve. And that ace has ‘cliché’ written on it (probably). Then it’s all over. The writing is all bent out of shape, all bets are off and the writer has opened a can of worms.

Let’s get to the bottom of it. Writers tend to hang on to every word of their writing. Now, it might be hard to swallow, but I reckon a good rule of thumb is to go through your copy and can it. All of it. Then go to bed and get up early to face it again with a clear head. After all, the early bird catches the worm!

Then, sit down and open a can of whoop ass on your work. Take no prisoners, ensure there are no holds barred. Well, except to not use clichés, obviously.

So let’s call a spade a spade. I don’t want to call the shots here and tell you how to suck eggs (doesn’t seem too hard though does it? Get egg, peel shell, suck). In writing, it’s every man for himself. Long, lonely nights spent staring at that little flashing computer curser, waiting for inspiration to strike. Hunched over the computer in the darkness for perfect prose to spill onto the page. But you can’t hold a candle to it (well you could, but the wax would get all over the keyboard. Très messy.) So to speed things up, you slip in a little cliché. A teeny tiny overused phrase that means nothing, but makes your copy sound hella cool.

But if that were true, I would eat my hat (and then very swiftly call an ambulance). You can’t waste precious virtual ink on a clumsy cliché! It might appear that everything is coming up roses and your page is filled with witty remarks, but no! Ohhhh, no. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, mister! I am taking that cake (yum, thanks). This is do or die territory. If you want to write a story, article or novel that people will actually enjoy reading, you can’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched. Because chances are they won’t turn into chickens, anyway. They’ll probably end up on a dinner plate somewhere in suburbia. I digress.

I have another axe to grind about clichés. What’s the deal with journalists throwing them into their copy left, right and centre (but not justified. They never put them in a justified alignment)? I know they have to do what it takes to get a story, but they are on easy streak. They actually get paid to write! Their prose should be hunky dory and cliché-free! But instead, it looks like a dog’s breakfast.

Now I know I shouldn’t hold my breath. It’s going to be no easy feat wiping clichés from the world. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are hundreds of bloggers and independent journos taking a stand and bemoaning the use of clichés. Even news.com.au, a notorious cliché-loving publication (seriously, the two of them should get a room) published a story about the industry’s worst clichés.

So to make a long story short, do what I say, not what I do. Discard those stinking, good-for-nothing clichés! Throw the clichés out with the bath water! Don’t sit on your hands – strike while the iron is hot!

I’ve said my piece. Take it with a grain of salt. 😉

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