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Style Chapter 13: Cliches
vandanagoyal wrote in visionindia2047
Good stimulating writing demands you omit cliches. They have outlived their usefulness through excessive use and over familiarity.

Cliches are antiquated expressions and do nothing to clarify or inspire. There is no surer way to put the reader off than to use dead expressions like 'thin as a rake', 'raining cats and dogs', 'all and sundry', 'pretty as a picture' , 'quiet as a mouse', 'cool as a cucumber', 'cry over spilt milk', 'nipped in the bud', 'stick out like a sore thumb, 'selling like hot cakes'. 

Reader must never get the impression that the writer was too lazy to think of a phrase to express himself. Even worse that the writer was not bothered. He did not mind serving an unappetizing, flat and boring piece with  tired cliches.

Besides staleness cliches are one-size-fits all expressions, rather than descriptions perfectly crafted for the circumstances. If the writing is original, it must avoid cliches.

Best writing provides a connection between the writer's mind and the reader's. Tired, worn out expressions will not rouse the reader to make that interaction.A reader who has read the same expression over and over again has become numb to them and will not take the time to make the connection between the idea and the cliche.

Writing must be scanned for phrases, metaphors, similes and images that appear too familiar and replaced. Ideas can seldom be too new, so freshness  and originality is in presentation. If you have heard or seen it before it is probably a cliche or on the way there.

There are any number of websites that will give you a list of cliches to avoid;
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7733264.stm
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/debates/3394545/Oxford-compiles-list-of-top-ten-irritating-phrases.html
A very useful one is cliche finder where you can paste your prose and it will give you all the cliches that have slipped in. It's based on the Associated Press Guide to News Writing: 
http://cliche.theinfo.org/

But the list of cliches is ever evolving. What were discarded as cliches sometime ago, may seem fresh and novel now as they are not used so extensively any more. Similarly the expressions which were considered original and forceful till now, may not be so any more as they have become overused.
There have been stories of people who didn't like Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' because it  had too many cliches, little realising that the master piece is so brilliant that its originality has been cliched over the past few hundred years through overuse.

Getting rid of cliches from writing is not easy and needs lot of original creative thinking. They crept into our writing and have been used so extensively because they describe the idea so well.
To create a fresh, forceful image, one must use all the senses and look for new comparisons. There are multiple ways to describe a thing; choose to rephrase and restate with imagination.

Sometimes, though, readers' familiarity with cliches can be turned in your favour very effectively to lend novelty, humor and  fresh imagery to the writing. Like this one

Never put off to tomorrow what you can put off indefinitely.

©2008 VisionIndia2047

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