don’t ever, ever say that again. Ever.

Writing, Speaking, and Over-Used Cliches

In a recent TIME magazine article, Angelia Jolie (special envoy of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and – oh yeah – also an actress), wrote, “It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child.” You bet it’s often said, as in way too often. It belongs on the list of “clichés that no good writer or speaker should ever use again. Ever.”

On a podcast I recently heard someone cite the old Yiddish curse, “May you live in interesting times.” How many zillions of times have we heard that one? Put it on the list. Never use it again.

I heard the comedian Jerry Seinfeld interviewed on the radio the other day. He said, “Youth is wasted on the young” – but then, to his credit, put a unique twist on it. He went on, “… actually I think everything is wasted on everybody.” Ha! OK, you can use a old, overused cliché if you give a clever, new twist to it. Fair enough.

I don’t know if he started it, but John F. Kennedy said, “When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” People who know and write Chinese tell us that is not accurate, but never mind. In my book it’s another cliché for the “Do not use ever again” list. Ever.

Let me know others that you think belong on the list. Two final points:

  1. If you use dead, tired, overused clichés like these you are giving a direct and immediate signal to your audience that you are not someone who has something new, valuable, or useful to offer. Whether that’s true or not, that’s the message that comes across.

  2. If you find yourself using these clichés, or others like them, you need to read more. You need to read better. You need to read wider. This is a sad, ugly disease with a simple cure.

    love, joy, peace … Michael Michael is a freelance consultant to nonprofits, with an emphasis on research. Contact him for a free, one-hour consultation.

    Vol. 1 No. 12

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