The Chestnut Diet: How To Cut Cliches Out of Your Writing
Time to throw the cliches out with the bathwater -- and improve your writing 110%!
March 26, 2013 - 7:00 am
A recent thread at Richocet invited readers to share “Conservative or Libertarian Sayings That Make You Wince.”
Some of my “favorites” made the list — like “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” As one wise fellow noted:
Plenty of good men have vigorously stood up to evil men, and lost. In the 20th century alone, there are mass graves full of principled, courageous men that fought the good fight and were murdered for doing so, while their opponents died comfortable in their own beds, achieving all their goals. Lenin died of natural causes, while the White forces were murdered en masse. Stalin killed more people than Hitler ever dreamed of, and not only died a peaceful death, but had monuments and temples built to his memory for decades to come.
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph” is for bad men to win. And it happens. The slogan makes it sound like if you just stand up, bam, evil loses. Reality doesn’t work like that.
As for me, I often wish “they” had “come for” Pastor Niemöller first, just so I’d never have to hear his most famous declaration mangled in yet another boring speech.
This isn’t just a political messaging issue, although we right-wingers are always being told we need to “rebrand.”
No matter what you write — a personal blog or annual reports for Fortune 500 corporations — you can always improve your work by snipping away as many cliches as you can.
(Or that your bosses and clients will let you — too many of them are still hooked on “solutions” and “excellence” and other 1990s jargon.)
Even if this is the only change you make to your writing style ever, you’ll notice a big improvement in your copy, while giving your brain a workout.
So turn your boilerplate (whatever that even is) to “high” and blast away all the corny shibboleths, trite truisms, and vapid verbiage that’s making your writing passe before anyone else even reads it.