Why to Avoid Clichés like the Plague
Firm advice from an itinerant freelancer
Something was new under the sun in this Happy Valley of milk and honey when I tiptoed on eggs into the newspaper office. Knowing the jig was up; the board of directors confronted me, “Jim we would like to know what’s new in your brave world of Banholzerian scandal sheets. Which begs the question; can you spare us more than a few nanoseconds of your attention span for some whys and wherefores?”
They led me through some flowery purple passages, where we circled up for a showdown. This would be no kid glove treatment. But, what the hey? No pain, no gain! One kind-hearted Central Pennsylvanian scrutinizer remarked at length, “Son, your imagination runs riot, but I’ve told you a million times that you’re prone to hyperbole. By the same token, some of your sentences are so very long that by the time readers get around to your end point, few remember what you were writing about in the first place and believe you me with the instant gratification expectations that today’s world has developed for digests, buzzwords and Tweets, your style is going to come off sounding like a bunch of half-baked ideas grasping at straws.”
“I catch your drift and don’t forget the memory hole”, I retorted, “prions pouring right down the drain”. Perhaps I should even out my long-winded lexicon with some good old hackneyed phrases. I think we see eye to eye that the man I’m replacing has some hard shoes to fill. Harder than Chinese Algebra -without an abacus. But let’s dream the impossible dream and say I’m able to keep the ball rolling between the lines for readers. What then? Need I develop an algorithmic formula that does the trick to blow them away?”
“Well”, one of my mentors suggested, “you’re not out of the woods yet. It’s more than wishful thinking to say that if you were to modify several clichés and hang them from a string together, you could come up with something original. Like pinning your hopes on duck soup. Many trite expressions are used because the author is lazy as a dog. Certainly not every word spilling out of your keyboard can be a coal pressed gem, but you should at least strive for some originality in this state.”
So, I’ll put my money where my mouth is, starting with one red cent. By and large it will become easy as pie to roll in the dough from that sweetened pot at this end of the rainbow. I’d bet my bottom dollar that if I’m to write commentary on subjects like “Beaver Stadium Was Not Built in One Day” then mixing bolt from the blue clichés with sassy language could become the technique to get ‘er done. We’ll run it up the liberty pole to see who salutes it.
The Bossman walked in shouting, “Eureka! Young (middle-aged) James you’ve solved a puzzle! It’s refreshing to see beyond the end of your nose that while you couldn’t beat conformity you didn’t join it. Otherwise it would have been back to the drawing board. You’d have been writing on the wall methods for putting toothpaste back in tubes and genies into bottles no place like home. Best to not have to open that can of worms.”
“Well, you do have to be a pretty early bird to snag a silkworm and pull the wool over my eyes with it.” Seeing it through, I knew that the sun always shines after a hard rain, even if it’s pitchforks. A real cat and dog gully washer always makes it fun to watch the golf greens grow.
I was happy as a clam that the editors didn’t pop a vein while having a mad cow over my unconventional efforts. They didn’t consider this bunch of blather to be over the top! I wouldn’t want poor planning on my part to create an emergency on theirs and get swept under the rug. So while I’m burning midnight ethanol worth its weight in gold and shooting for the moon, I’ll apply these newfangled methods during crunch time, hoping my verbiage doesn’t get caught between a rock and a hard place. This straight from the mouth of the horse of a different colour, who laughed last at himself for trying to be too clever by halfsies.-->