Most people wag their finger and tell you cliches are bad – Google clichés in writing! – but I have a certain warped affection for them. Here’s why.
Where do clichés come from?
One of the occupational hazards of being a writer is that you see things that others don’t. Y’know, like clichés? Let’s look at this as an example….
Once upon a time, it made sense. When copywriter boy sat down to write about ‘document lifecycle management’, a few ideas came to mind.
Let’s jazz it up as a ‘next-generation leader in document lifecycle management.’
That sounds a little more impressive. But what is next-generation? Do you really know? I don’t.
Then he built on this. Add a dash of ‘intelligent productivity solutions’
which are for…
‘secure document creation, collaboration, comparison, control and cleansing.’
And you get twenty five words.
But what does it mean? Why Do We Say It? and does it make prospective customers feel intrigued and want to learn more?
Well, how about this?
‘our solutions enable companies to enhance document-related business processes for an immediate return on investment and match this business value with world-class customer support.’
An immediate return on investment?
Could it be true?
And world-class support?
Hmmm. How does one qualify as world-class when offering support?
You get the idea.
Why write in clichés?
I think it comes down to three things:
- Monkey See, Monkey Do – when we see other firms using buzzwords, (which may be fresh or different at first) we tend to blend them into our content. We don’t want to get left behind. If all the cool kids are using it, we’d better too!
- Shorthand – clichés are a type of marketing shorthand. Instead of telling us why they offer stellar support, we write world class instead. The reader gets the gist.
- Laziness – but ultimately it’s because we’re too lazy, scared, or tired to come up with better words. I often work til 2am, run out of steam, and resort to jargon and clichés. But, in the morning, I have to write it all again…
Why I like clichés?
Because it stretches me as a writer. When I see clichés in TV ads, on the web, or on posters, instead of feeling superior, I set myself a small challenge.
How can I rewrite this cliché?
It’s a small little game I play and, of course, as words are everywhere I never get bored 🙂
How about you?
What have you learned from clichés? How do you avoid them entering into your writing?
PS – this is the actual copy that I found on a website. The only change I made was the name of the firm.
‘Corp. is the next-generation leader in document lifecycle management (DLM) with intelligent productivity solutions for secure document creation, collaboration, comparison, control and cleansing. X solutions enable companies to enhance document-related business processes for an immediate return on investment and match this business value with world-class customer support.’
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