Saturday, March 01, 2008

Cliché: dead as a doornail

Meaning: dead like an inanimate object
Rewrite 1: dead as a paperweight
Rewrite 2: dead as a drill bit
Rewrite 3: dead as a casket
Rewrite 4: alive as an icecycle

Comment: The first two rewrites courtesy of John Shoemaker, a writer and editor in the Greater New York City Area via
LinkedIn, the professional networking site, with permission.

John was one of several who responded to a question I posed on LinkedIn, “Do clichés bother you?” Most who answered were very tolerant of clichés and those who use them. Most responders were writers or editors or both. None thought using clichés were the best first option of a writer, but most thought there was a place for using clichés.

What I have attempted to show in this Web log is that as writers and editors we are all better off avoiding clichés, although it is certain there are times when we can’t avoid them or when using them can be an advantage. Better is learning to rewrite or recast the original idea, which I do in each case by example. I think my colleagues agree in principle with that. In that case, the advantage is usually yours.

Check out the searchable alphabetical list of my cliché rewrites with the archive list at the right.