A journalist has been researching cliches. Which might sound a bit like a cigarette company researching the harm caused by nicotine. But this journo, Chris Pash, came up with the following as the most (over)used cliches in journalism…
1. At the end of the day
2. Split second
3. About face
4. Unsung heroes
5. Outpouring of support
6. Last-ditch effort
7. Concerned residents
He also makes this statement:
Writers in particular genres tend to reach for particular cliches. Book reviewers, for example, favour “compelling” and “masterful”as well as the made-up word “unputdownable”, whereas travel writers show an over-dependence on “paradise”, “must-see” and “best-kept secret”.
Which is true for any profession. We’ve all got our own jargon and favourite terminology. One of my favourite media release cliches was “key strategy” – which is both weaselly, buzzwordy, and slightly tautologous. Perfect cliche fodder. It almost always came with the modifier “one of our” (and the accompanying pluralisation of strategy) – just to show that we weren’t nailed down to a single idea.
Pash manages the Dow Jones Factiva Database, which stores all the content from about 25,000 major news outlets and magazines. He ran searches on the material for particular phrases, like “at the end of the day” and identified the list above as the most commonly used cliches.
But, at the end of the day, nobody really needs to write “at the end of the day” do they?
Pash attributes the soul-crushing dominance of “at the end of the day” at least partly to its frequent appearance in direct quotes, particularly those given by politicians. “They use it almost as punctuation,” he says.
Being aware of the cliches you use is good. Because cliches make for tired writing, and thus, bad communication. As soon as a phrase becomes a cliche it has lost its magic.