Avoid these 12 writing clichés at all costs

Want to learn the ropes or level the playing field? That’s too bad, because no one wants to hear about it.

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My husband laughed when he saw one of my writing magazines arrive in the mail recently. In 72-point the cover headline screamed: “104 Worst Clichés.”

“Cosmo” may lure readers with come-ons like “He cheated: Do You Take Him Back or Dump Him?” But writing magazines know that nothing sells like the threat of being boring.

The list of clichés, which was intended for fiction writers, included the following: anything that sheds light; anybody who is stopped in his tracks; any heart, ocean, fist or headache that pounds. I agreed with all of them. But the list gave me another idea.

Each week I receive more than a dozen email newsletters. I challenged myself to set a timer and go through a batch to see how many clichés I could find.

I surprised myself by finding 12 clichés in three newsletters, in less than five minutes. Here’s what I turned up.

1. A real eye-opener. The word “real” is just the first problem. Would you ever have a pretend or fake eye-opener? Apart from that difficulty, this tired noun-phrase makes me want to yawn—the very opposite of the writer’s intent.

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