Rethinking the cliché

Sometimes, phrases writers consider trite can be useful. Sometimes they’re nonsense. That, plus the value of rule-breaking, the task of rewriting iconic speeches, and more.

Ragan Insider Premium Content
Ragan Insider Content

Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out. You may not want to completely ignore clichés, no matter what your favorite style guide says. Plus, Steven Pinker guides you through breaking rules, and a contest to help you meet your writing goals this year.

Clichés: lazy or useful?: No matter what kind of writing you do, and no matter the momentum you have on a particular day, you’ll eventually arrive at a point that could be expressed through cliché. We’re taught to hate them, and avoid them at all costs. Then you come to a hard decision: Go with the cliché, or interrupt your pace to find an original expression. In the New York Times Sunday Book Review, two writers gave alternative approaches on what to do in this situation, one of them saying that, yes, there is value in cliche. Leslie Jamison writes:

Clichés lend structure and ritual and glue: They are the subterranean passageways connecting one life to another. They obstruct alibis of complexity and exceptionality, various versions of the notion “It’s different for me.”

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.