Saturday, August 30, 2008

Maybe The Best Explanation We've Seen
For Why It's Always Best to Avoid Cliches

'Phrases are like furniture. For a short time they are comfortable or even brilliant, but it doesn't take long for them to become shabby. Cliches are okay once in a blue moon, but the very definition of cliche argues against their use: "a trite, overused expression." Overreliance on cliches can be a sign of weak writing because it usually means you couldn't think of a creative way to get your point across and instead you lazily borrowed a phrase someone else created years ago. Is avoiding someone like the plague really relevant today, or would it touch your readers lives more if you said "he's as welcome as a Nigerian spammer."? The next time you are tempted to write a cliche, think about how much you believe the checker at the grocery store wants you to "have a nice day," and try again.'
--From the lively and compelling book Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, by a writer with the impossibly cinematic name of Mignon Fogarty. She hosts weekly five-minute podcasts on I-Tunes, which you can find on her website. You can learn more about her and her philosophies by watching this brief video profile. The main reason for her huge success, we think, in addition to a combination of smart packaging and expert knowledge, is something crucial she says on the video: "I think it's important to make language fun."


At 4:35 PM, Blogger Theresa E. said...

Grammar Girl's podcasts are awesome!

At 3:41 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Glad you agree, Theresa.

At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved the Nigerian spammer line, and had to smile at your "impossibly cinematic name" description. Speaking of making language fun, I read this line over the weekend, "they moved her to another ward, a long double line of beds filled with elderly women, their heads like rows of dandelions gone to seed." It was from a Richard Peck book and it reminds one of how the simple act of word choice can frame scenes of life from dismal to ones of lively expectation. Sometimes in a difficult situation this may be the only choice you have, but it surely can open the window to a gale force breath of fresh air. Art as life, life as art.

At 9:12 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Nicely said. And that is indeed a great simile.

At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I think this book might come in handy.

It's on the must have list upon return from my trip.

Thanks for the tip, JE.


At 8:56 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I know you'll find it useful, Neve. It no doubt includes a passage or two on your beloved semicolon. Do enjoy yourself in Italy.


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