Throw these cliches in the garbage pail!

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a list of 200 journalism cliches from the Washington Post….

Do you ever use cliches? Be honest! Of course the answer is yes, because we all do. And they’re even perfectly acceptable in your crappy first draft.

But once you move to draft 2 (or 3 or 4) you should start removing them, because they deaden your writing.

The Washington Post has been keeping a list of cliches for the last few years. They call it the List of Things We Do Not Say. Here are a few examples:

Yes, Virginia, there is a [something]

Christmas came early for [someone]

Chock full (“full” is just fine by itself)

Last-ditch effort (unless ditch-digging is involved)

Midwife (as a verb, unless involving childbirth)

Cue the [something]

Call it [something]

Pity the poor [something]

It’s the [something], stupid

Notice that these aren’t typical cliches — expressions such as “in the nick of time.” Instead, they’re lazy or prepackaged ways of expressing a thought that deserves more imagination.

I think all writers should review the complete list — it contains some 200 cliches! — and strive to edit them out of their writing. I posted back in 2013 about the Washington Post list (see here) but as it’s now been updated, I’m writing again.

Great thanks to my friend Peter, for forwarding this link to me.

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