Friday, July 13, 2007

Our Jihad Against Cliches Continues

'Cliches...dampen energy and cause eyes to skitter, and more importantly they offer nothing new -- no 'ah ha!' moment of understanding. They are just old words, used in an old way."
--Curt Hazlett, former managing editor of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram

9 Comments:

At 10:46 AM, Anonymous M├Ądchen said...

Whoah, careful with the word choice there for your headlines, cowboy...

On an unrelated note, here's an obit about a genuine worker with words:

Charles Tisdale, crusading black newspaper publisher

Jackson, Miss.- Charles Tisdale, 80, who purchased an innocuous, nearly defunct weekly newspaper in 1978, transformed it into a strident voice for blacks and poor whites in Mississippi, then endured the wrath of those who wanted to silence him, died July 7.

In at least 20 separate instances over the years, the office of The Jackson Advocate was attacked: firebombed, riddled with bullets, burglarized, ransacked, and firebombed again. Tisdale received threats on his life.

His paper never missed publishing an edition. After a devastating firebombing in 1998, he and his wife, Alice, laid out the week's paper in their home, refusing to surrender their roles as journalists and advocates.

When Tisdale looked at the South through the eyes of a journalist, he saw people in power using new ways to achieve old goals. Before Tisdale purchased The Jackson Advocate, "it was just spouting the white folks' rhetoric," he told a reporter for the now defunct Emerge magazine in 1999.

In the 1980s and '90s the paper exposed bribery and corruption among law enforcement officials. It brought national attention to the town of Tunica, where in the early 1980s residents were so poor they had no indoor plumbing and everyone dumped waste into "Sugar Ditch."

The Advocate also ran stories about numerous black men who died while incarcerated in Mississippi jails. Officials ruled the deaths suicides, but many others suspected the men were victims of modern-day lynchings.

 
At 10:54 AM, Blogger Scott said...

Yes, cliches are everywhere, but you can't avoid them. Sometimes that's just how the cookie crumbles...

 
At 11:13 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That's quite an obit, and he was obviously quite a guy. Thanks for that wonderful addition, which is better than anything I could possible add today. And Scott, as always, thanks for visiting and commenting.

 
At 4:29 PM, Blogger Scott said...

I really couldn't think of a good cliche -- is that to my credit? -- so the "cookie crumbles" one had to suffice.

 
At 4:39 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I think it's all to the good that you don't naturally think in cliches. It's the sign of an original thinker. As for me, I have to constantly go back in second, third, and even fourth drafts of anything I write to forever omit them where I encounter them, which is just about everywhere.

 
At 11:37 AM, Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom John,

I fight not writing cliches the way alcoholics fight not taking the next drink. I think I spend more time in my editing process ripping them out than I do anything else.

It's so easy to write in cliche speak, but we are all better when we conquer the jones.

B'shalom,

Jeff

p.s. how many cliches is that?

 
At 12:43 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Well said, Jeff. As with recovery from drinking, it's one day at a time.

 
At 8:20 AM, Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom John,

And then there's this:

http://www.gawker.com/news/blogs/bad-lingo-blogmedia-clichs-222162.php

B'shalom,

Jeff

 
At 12:00 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Jeff, that's a great addition to this subject. The writer says it well: "When you make words for a living, you will inevitably find yourself drawn into certain ruts of repetition." That's the problem in a nutshell. And the paradox is this: the longer you write, and the more writing you produce, the worse the problem really becomes, and the more on guard you must be, even while you may at the same time be more aware than rookies of the importance of saying things in a fresh way. Less experienced writers come to a subject with less accumulated baggage, and fewer mental ruts.

 

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