I work hard to avoid clichés when I write, because they can push the reader away. Sometimes I know I succeed, because I spot one during my self-editing process and eliminate it
with extreme prejudice with a savage grin of satisfaction. At other times they slip through, or I’m not sure if a familiar phrase has crossed the line and become a cliché. In those cases I take a hard look at what I have written and ask myself if it really conveys my exact meaning, or if I am letting someone else speak for me.
Here are some that make me grit my teeth and
throw the book across the room snap the book shut*:
#5: “Deal with it.” This is supposed to make the speaker sound badass or something. Usually it merely makes them sound dismissive and uncaring. And unoriginal. Even anti-heroes should be original.
#4: “You go girl.” Yes. Let’s empower women and girls, and support them when they speak up for what is right. I support the use of this phrase when there isn’t time to say more. Now can we please find a way to say it that speaks to the specific situation? Oh, and please be careful about calling a woman a girl when you are trying to show respect.
#3: “Lock and load.” Acceptable if you are Tom Clancy, or another author that writes dialogue about American soldiers preparing for imminent combat in the present day. Not acceptable in boardrooms, summer camps or literary genres like Western or SF. I write Science Fiction, and I will use this expression in stories about the future when they pry my red pencil
from my cold, dead fingers no, I will never use this expression.
#2: “Let’s do this.” Let’s not. Most especially, let’s not pair it up with #3. William Shakespeare preferred “screw your courage to the sticking point.” Now there was a man who could put his meaning into original words.
#1: “Failure is not an option.” I’m pretty sure it is. I’m pretty sure the writer of it is failing
as we speak right now. Deserves to be said only by characters who are noticeably stupid. Also deserves to be lampooned. “Computer, turn the air conditioning on.” Mechanical voice: “Air conditioning is not an option.”
Do you have a cliché that
makes your skin crawl? you particularly despise? Drop me a comment!
*difficult with a Kobo. Please add this feature, plus smell of old paper. But keep the backlight.