Drop The Clichés

There are very few things that get under my skin MORE than clichés.  It’s a sign of sloppy journalism or a ‘brain in neutral’.  I’ve explored it before in my ‘pet hates’, but thought we should take another look.

They’re an easy way out and are no doubt used to make a story more ‘conversational’.  However, they can make any good story sound dated and boring.  More importantly, they can be a complete waste of time. Literally. Why waste precious airtime with an overworked phrase?

I’ve asked a few colleagues to help put together a list of the truly cringe-inspiring, yawn-inducing, kill-me-now clichés and here’s what we came up with:

Tributes are flowing:

Every time anyone of significance passes away, this one is trotted out and not just on radio.  Our TV colleagues are partial to it as well.  It could be turned into a drinking game: every time we hear it, take a swig.

Not quite as bad: People are paying tribute, people are honouring etc etc

Hanging up the boots:  

A sports journalist’s favourite.  A player doesn’t retire, “he hangs up the boots”.  Give me strength.

Calling it quits:

My learned ‘news’ colleagues use this one as much as the sports journo used ‘hanging up the boots’.

Why not just say ‘they’ve retired/resigned/quit’?

Downing tools:

Often used in union/strike stories, we down tools rather than take strike action or go on strike.  I suppose it would be OK if you actually use tools in your job.

Walked off the job:

This one gets used a lot when talking about strikes.  It’s not so much a cliché as over used and tired.

It’s D-Day for..

We’ve all been guilty of using this one.  I’ll put my hand up to it.  Unless you’re referring to the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy, perhaps it’s time to retire this one.

Crunch time:

Another one that gets trotted out as a deadline approaches.  Rethink that sentence and make it stand out by using something different.

Something is looming:

Another over-worked one.  Sometimes used in conjunction with “D-Day”.  A double whammy of boring.

Bundled out:

Another one from the Sports department.   Why can’t someone just lose rather than being bundled out?

Sent packing:

See above.

Tight Lipped:

OK, this is just a way of using some information that we can’t actually get confirmed, but it sort of sounds like we have if we say ‘tight lipped’.

Sources say:

Again, see above.    I can run just about anything if I add ‘sources say”.  Sources say the world, as we know it, will end tomorrow at midday.

Sounds a bit more knowledgeable, right?

Details are sketchy:

Used as padding when details are indeed sketchy. Rather than admit we don’t have a lot of details, we revert to ‘details are sketchy’.

We’re being told:

Kind of makes us sound important if we use ‘we’re being told’.  Somehow we’re among the privileged few to be told what’s happening.  The entire media contingent may have been given the same information, but we sound more important if ‘we’re being told’.

A storm’s brewing:

Really.  This one should only be used if you’re doing a story on a cyclone, or I don’t know, a STORM.

These are just a few of the doozies that we’ve come across and would prefer to avoid like the plague*.

Whilst I try not to use clichés in any story I write, I don’t have a problem with the common vernacular. There’s a big difference between clichés and word and phrases that are commonly used in every day speech.  We shouldn’t delete them from the vocab, but perhaps use them sparingly.

* This was a deliberate use of a cliché.  I promise.

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