Chat replay: What should I use instead of cliches in my writing?

We have an appetite for fresh, not stale, foods. We like fresh air and fresh ideas. I guess we even use products to make us smell fresh. With the exception of boys who got slapped and called “fresh!” for making passes at girls who wore glasses, the word fresh has positive connotations. We even know a foreign variant as when we enjoy a table outdoors to eat al fresco.

What is fresh when it comes to original language? We have names for language that is stale. We call it hackneyed, or cliched, or trite or stereotypical. Cutting that stuff out is easier than finding a fresh replacement, but there are ways to make your writing more original.

We talked about how to make your writing more original and offered related tips in this week’s writing chat. You can replay the chat below at any time.

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  • Bob Hurt

    Cliches function as any other writing device. You can create a good effect if you use them with skill and don’t overdo it.

    I have some simple rules that I try to follow for substantial works.

    1. Eliminate passive voice.

    2. Eliminate to-be verbs (be, am, are, is, were, was) except when expressing identity. “I feel happy.” Not “I am happy.”

    3. Proceed from general to specific.

    4. Start and end with a summary.

    5. Use punchy title and headings.

    6. Put subject and verb at the front of the sentence.

    7. Limit sentences to 17 words max; use fewer where possible.

    8. Group logically connected sentences into paragraphs.

    9. Put 3 (ideally) to 5 (maximum) sentences in a paragraph, and make one a connecting sentence.

    10. Use numbered or bulleted lists for series of more than 3 items.

    11. Use elegant and polite but not pretentious or pedantic language. Incorporate correct grammar and spelling. Don’t overuse cliches or other figures of speech.

    12. Focus on telling the story, whether informing or entertaining, according to purpose. Excise your sidetracks and cache them for later use.

    13. Re-read everything and correct your own errors of spelling, grammar, and style.

    13. Otherwise, follow Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style.”

    If you obey the foregoing rules, people will want to read what you write.

    Bob Hurt
    2460 Persian Drive #70
    Clearwater, Florida 33763
    727 669 5511

  • Mark A. Ollig

    I am here! :)

  • Poynter


  • Anonymous

    Am I in the right place for the live chat with Poynter?