Cliches: How to avoid them like the plague
Writer’s Digest says writers should avoid clichés like the plague. So, one morning, fresh as a daisy, I decided to get down to brass tacks and write a column without a single cliché. But, knowing that two heads are better than one, I asked Wonder Wife (she earned a Ph.D. in Communications) if I should try to make my clichés as scarce as hen’s teeth.
She said clichés can be helpful in getting one’s point across and I should not throw the cliché baby out with the pedantic water. If, however, I’m unwilling to let sleeping dogs lie, she said I should put my money where my mouth is and step up to the plate.
Obviously, she wasn’t going to give me help on a silver platter. So, I let her words go in one ear and out the other, even though I knew avoiding clichés wouldn’t be a piece of cake. So, I turned, like a bat out of hell, to the Internet, where I found just what the doctor ordered. I don’t mean to let the cat out of the bag; however, the Internet reveals many writers who use more clichés than Carter has little, liver pills.
Realizing I was on a roll and could meet my editor’s deadline in the nick of time, I was determined not to throw in the towel or let my shorts get wrapped around the axle. Besides, some editors are dumber than a box of rocks and, if you make them think you’ve been burning the midnight oil, they’ll say encouraging things like: wake up and smell the coffee or, even better, the check’s in the mail.
Even though I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, I also did research at a bookstore. I noticed a certain author’s book was selling like hotcakes, so I decided when in Rome to do as the Romans do and jumped on the band wagon to buy his book. Even though people were fighting like cats and dogs over the book; I bit the bullet and bought the last copy, leaving others, not only green with envy, but as mad as hornets.
One disappointed customer wouldn’t take no for an answer. But, as a rule of thumb, I’ve found if you let people take an inch they will take a mile. So, I told him he was making a mountain out of mole hill. Finally, this guy made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned. Besides, when I glanced at the preface, it was all Greek to me.
I could tell he was chomping at the bit to buy the book. But, being honest as the day is long; I didn’t want to put my foot in my mouth by giving him the whole nine yards about how the book would make him happier than a pig in, well …dirt.
I was reluctant to go out on a limb; however, knowing that he who hesitates is lost, I bet him dollars to donuts that the book would make him feel like a kid in a candy store. Still, not wanting to count my chickens before they hatched and not about to take any wooden nickels, I was pleased when he paid me a King’s ransom in cash and left.
With my column deadline nearing, it became clear as crystal that I would only make it by the skin of my teeth because I was finding that ridding my work of clichés was putting me between a rock and hard place. Yet, if I failed, I wouldn’t cry over spilled milk. But, to be safe rather than sorry and not wanting to be caught a day late and dollar short or to be barking up the wrong tree, I checked the work of another writer by the name of William Shakespeare. He wrote that, “All’s well that ends well.”
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, a featured commentator for USA Today and self-described “recovering lawyer and philosopher,” is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2007. William Hamilton.