Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

Avoid Cliches — Video

By · Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Cliches are words or phrases that have become trite with overuse. They might seem clever or perfect — until you realize how many times other writers also have used them. In our third video post, we mention that it is easy to overlook cliches in writing because they are so commonly used.

Journalists should strive to be original. When you are writing, reread your paragraphs, sentences, phrases and words. Look for cliches. Ask yourself: “What am I trying to say here?” Look for a new way to say it.

When you are editing someone else’s copy, follow the same approach. Ask the writer the same question. The answer probably will lead to more specific information, a clearer message, an original way to communicate.

Some people say that editors who avoid cliches are unimaginative. But it is cliches that take little imagination. Think about it.

View this video — and others in the archive — via our YouTube Playlist, right off the Web, or in the player right here on our home page.


By Mark Obbie on January 5th, 2010 at 7:46 PM

Great video, guys. One of my writing heroes, Michael Kinsley, has some relevant advice in the new Atlantic — not really the usual cliches, but equally lame newswriting tropes that pad the word count without saying what we really mean: