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Monday, September 16, 2013

Your Goose Is Cooked If You Use Clichés in Writing

It's never too late to learn that I've had it up to here with all of you writing cliché after cliché because it isn't all it's cracked up to be.  Even if you're cliché king, you're not in the clear.  You don't have this in the bag, and you don't have a leg to stand on.  You can work your fingers to the bone with your writing, but I'm just waiting for you to wake up and smell the coffee.  You're not thinking outside the box.

Clichés are often described as "tired and worn-out expressions."  Some Clichés are comparisons:

     light as a feather
     tough as nails
     as old as the hills
     spread like wildfire

Clichés can also be other kinds of expressions:

     Have a nice day.
     last but not least
     all that jazz
     cool, calm, and collected

An expression becomes a cliché when it has become so commonly used that its original vigor has been lost.  To say that someone is "a wet blanket" was once an imaginative way of saying that person was so dull or pessimistic that he or she snuffed out the enthusiasm of others, just as a wet blanket thrown over a fire would extinguish its light and warmth.  Today the expression "a wet blanket" has been so overused that it has lost that original force.

Writers who frequently express themselves in clichés reveal they haven't made the effort to think very carefully or originally.  Almost everything you write can be improved if you examine your diction carefully to be sure you have not, unaware, picked up one of these ready-made expressions.

So, to make a long story short, get all your ducks in a row, and work like a dog to use original comparisons and expressions.  You won't be sadder but wiser; instead, you'll be pleased as punch with your improved writing.

Practice -- Replace the clichés in the following sentences with fresh comparisons of your own.

1.  The investigator turned white as a sheet.
2.  Emma is as fresh as a daisy every morning.
3.  The producer's hand was as cold as ice.
4.  Amy's eyes sparkled like diamonds.
5.  She sings like a bird.
6.  Mary is as cute as a button.
7.  In August the weather is as hot as Hades.
8.  The baby was as quiet as a mouse.  
9.  The escapee went from the frying pan into the fire.
10.  The soccer team is going down the drain.
11.  Scott has a crush on the new girl.
12.  I believe there's no time like the present.   

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