Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Avoid Annoying Phrases And Words

Writers are a wordy lot.  We're clever with words, it's true.  We love them. We play with them.

We write short stories, articles, reports, screen scripts, novels and lots more only rarely do we write too little. Some of us write in fantastic fashion, a great many in exceptionally good style and a whole lot more are aspiring to really excellent writing.

So I want to use this week's post to remind us all about the tired and overused phrases that are so common in our writing, the cliches that keep cropping up; the words that hardly seem to be words at all, but rather some barely noticed (or not noticed at all) filler that your readers are going to gloss over, skip, or possibly cause them to lose interest altogether. (horrors!)

I mean come on, doesn't it 'boggle your mind' to hear the same phrase over and over? We've all heard 'it's not rocket science' or 'think outside of the box' so often they're in our genes by now.

I don't know why we, as humans, do this with such gusto - adopt a word or phrase and use it to death - or until the next new word or phrase comes along.  Then repeat.

And then there are the ones that just linger forever.  "A stitich in time saves nine."  Huh? Okay, I get it, but Why? 

Well, we may never know why, or if asking a professional why, could well be 'bored to tears' by what we're told.  So, lets just 'get real' and I'll give you a list of some words and phrases to avoid.  Hopefully this little list will trigger your "oh my god, am I doing that?" response and you'll search your latest manuscript for just this sort of thing.  Unless your characters are using a cliche or some particular phrase or repetitive wording for a particular effect, don't do it.

So here's the 'short list' - I'm not going to make it to terribly long, I'll leave the rest to you. Focus!

Tired of "ballpark figure" or "bear with me" or 'bottom line"?  I know I am.

How about awesome?  Are you sick of  "awesome" yet?

Here's an "oldie but a goodie" "between a rock and a hard place."

Why does "is your glass half full or half empty" continue to hang around?

"I hear what you're saying"  - frankly I doubt it!

"the fact of the matter is" - why did that start and why won't people stop using it?

Another one that makes me cringe, "touch base".  Come on, stop already!

"Preaching to the choir", "pushing the envelope"  Again, stop already!

"Needless to say,"  - oh, really?  Then don't say it.

And how many times have we all heard "anyway" as the beginning of a sentence? Don't put it in your writing.

All of these phrases are more to fill space than to get anything across.  So think about these things in your writing if you don't want your readers' eyes to glaze over.

Oh, and it's annoying too, so stop it.

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