Wick Communications

An oft-cited list of clichés

In Writing on March 6, 2014 at 5:22 pm
I Googled "nondescript office building and came up with Google's Berlin office.

I Googled “nondescript office building” and came up with Google’s Berlin office.

Yes, Virginia, there are journalism clichés. There is a growing body of evidence that there is a dizzying array of phrases that raised questions and sparked debate in nondescript office buildings around the country and brought stinging rebuke to the proverbial journalist. Here’s a modest proposal. Going forward – wait for it – let’s not use these phrases so much.

Eleven! I managed to use 11 of the cringe-worthy journalistic clichés found in Carlos Lozada’s list created for the Washington Post. I’d like to say that is the only time I’ve used these phrases, but that would be a lie. These suckers are pernicious. Some of these phrases burrow into your prose like chiggers in the night. (If you don’t get the reference, ask someone at one of our southern newspapers.)

If we all agree that these pompous phrases are worthless and overused, then why do we overuse them? I have a theory.

As journalists we read a lot. Which means we read these phrases again and again in the best journalism in the country. So it’s monkey see, monkey do. It’s like that hit song on the radio; you hear it enough, next thing you know, you are singing it in the shower.

We (and by we, I mean “I”) can make the mistake of thinking that words like “zeitgeist” and phrases like “upon further reflection” sound uptown. We want to write as well as David Brooks, so we emulate him. …

I suggest you read through the list. Look for those that maybe you have used as a crutch. Perhaps the next time you want to write about the raid in that “nondescript office building,” you will think of a more original phraseology.

Oh, and thanks to Jerry Burnes at the Williston Herald for bringing this list to my attention.

Clay

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