Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Expressions and cliches and overusage, OH MY

You know that expression, "those who can't, teach" ?

I've always hated that, because it seemed like a slam on teachers. And I've never been a teacher, at least not in the traditional sense, and it bothered me! It also never really made sense, because in my mind, if you can't do something or don't know how, then how could you teach it anyway? Psshh.

I guess in theory, it means something like football coaches who don't play anymore because of age or physical injuries or handicaps, but can still teach the game. Maybe? That makes sense. But the expression still seems derogatory. Anyone else ever felt that way?

And now that I'm "teaching" writing in various ways, it really offends me. lol Hopefully it's not true! ;)

That just goes to show you that sometimes, expressions and cliches in our writing can ring the wrong bell. Ha! How's that for a cliche? I think I used two in that sentence!! ;)  Think about it, though. What rolls off our tongue sometime (there's another one) and seems to be truth or a good way to say something, can often offend or have a negative reaction in the reader.

Or worse, make the reader skip over the familiar words and not read them at all.

Have you ever done that with something you know so well? I find myself sometimes doing that with Bible verses (yikes!) Think about it - most Christians have John 3:16 memorized a week after they come to Christ. Or for those of us who grew up in church, we know the more familiar verses we've heard in Sunday School or from the pulpit our entire lives. When we see them in print, we tend to rattle them off rather than let the words soak in. We miss the message because of the words.

Don't do that to your reader.

Remember, if something flows a little too easily (there's another one! lol) then it's probably a cliche and can be rewritten in a stronger or fresher way. If a cliche fits the scene or the moment, don't panic, just make it unique.

For example. Instead of your character thinking "another day, another dollar" when arriving to work at Taco Barn, have them think "another day, another taco" to be silly or "another shift, another quarter" to be sarcastic about how they are underpaid. Or instead of "love is blind", what about "love requires extra-strength bifocals"? Or instead of "free as a bird" why not "free as a streaker on game day". (ha! Sorry. I crack myself up)

The reader will appreciate your turning the cliches around, and it's also a great way to work comic relief or straight up humor into your story.   :)

Okay, just for fun, let's see how many cliches you can put into one sentence. hehe....

I won't beat around the bush, trust me, you should always avoid cliches like the plague, because while you think they might be an ace in the hole or an ace up your sleeve, they're actually not all that and a bag of chips.

Your turn ;)


  1. What a great post, Betsy! I definitely know what it's like to have your writing flow so easily, and then realize that it's littered with cliches. Thanks for the tips :)

    Cliches are nothing to write home about; though at first blush you might think that they're the best things since sliced bread (they do make writing easy as ABC), you'd be penny wise and pound foolish to use them.

  2. Thanks Abby! Glad you enjoyed the post! Love your cliche sentence! hahaha. Let's get it out of our system guys!!!