Thursday, February 11, 2016

Don't Rely On Cliches When You Write

Picture this. The woman in today's photo has just received an email from an editor regarding a recent submission. He wrote Your story idea is good but your manuscript is rife with cliches. This is not for us.

The dictionary definition of cliche:  a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usuallyexpressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lostoriginality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse, as sadder but wiser,or strong as an ox.

When we write, we often pick cliches from the air like snatching apples off a tree. They're there for us to use, aren't they? Yes, the cliches are out there by the thousands and we can use them if we so choose. If you sprinkle these overused phrases throughout your manuscript, you're likely to get a note like the woman above, or perhaps just a rejection with no explanation. 

Overuse of cliches is the sign of a lazy writer. I've been guilty of relying on cliches, especially in the early years of my writing journey. Cliches are such a common part of our everyday conversations that it's easy to let them slip into our writing. We need to work at recogizing that we use them and then to avoid them. 

I found a list of hundreds of trite phrases that we should try to avoid. Take a look at them and ask yourself how many you have used in your writing?  Read it at Be A Better Writer blog.  Pick a few and see how you might get the same idea across using your own words rather than the cliche. Practice doing this several times as a writing exercise to help you begin to think outside the cliche circle. 

It's alright to use a cliche on occasion but try to make it a rare event. Rely on your own creativity to come up with another way to give the same meaning. It may seem like a little thing in the huge scope of writing mechanics. I'd say it's a pretty important when it comes to word usage. 

Let's hope the woman above can highlight all the cliches she used in her story and come up with original thoughts. 

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