The old British comedy series Monty Python is still one of my all-time favorite TV shows. They had a way of flipping overused ideas upside down and making something new out of them.
In one skit, John Cleese and company took the tired old cliché of the superhero and turned him into: “Daht-dah-dah-dah… Bicycle Repair Man!” .
Clichés have a way of creeping into our writing when we blog, too. They seem harmless enough.
Hey, everyone uses them, right?
Yes. And there’s a reason for that. They are easy to picture. Familiar. And immediately understandable.
How they got to be clichés
At one time, these words were fresh— memorable even.
When the cave man first heard his pal say, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” I can imagine how his eyes widened as he pondered the idea, picturing the bird, the hand, the bush.
But somewhere along the line, we’ve heard them too many times. The words are now fluffy, full of air, balloons we deflate only to find nothing inside.
Using clichés in our blogging makes us look lazy—and our ideas ordinary.
Many times the cliché is the first word that comes to mind. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. And it’s also the word a bazillion other people on the planet use.
To find your unique blogger’s voice, stay away from them.
My list of top loser clichés
Okay. Here is my list. Now some people would quibble with me and say that these aren’t clichés, they’re just popular slang.
Well, yes, they are slang. But because they are overused, they have lost their originality. They have crossed the line into Clichéville:
1. Lazy adjective clichés.
In alphabetical order:
• amazing (I’m guilty of this one from time to time—so are a lot of peeps in the WordPress community and a million others.)
• awesome (Does this still mean inspiring in a mouth-dropping kind of way? Like, Mt. Everest is awesome! If it does, do we really want to describe a WordPress plugin that way?)
• cool (I’m guilty of this one. Especially in response to someone. But nothing could have less meaning except, perhaps, “very cool.”)
• great (I thought the Beatles were great musicians, but now people talk about great blog posts, so I’m not sure.)
• kick-ass (this one is no different. There is so much kick-ass stuff going on these days, we are a population of bruised butts.)
• killer (Everything is “killer” these days. In a Google search, I found 325 million entries for this word, from “killer SEO” and “killer nonprofit WordPress sites” to “killer bacon”. Doesn’t a killer end things? Death? Doesn’t seem too positive and lasting to me.)
• sweet (another word for “nice.” Particularly irritating when used with “ass.”)
2. Stupid, meaningless noun clichés.
At the top of my list: rockstar.
Enough with the rockstar already.
If I hear one more writer compare a person or thing to a rockstar, I’m going to puke. No, really, I am.
Blog like a rockstar.
Network like a rockstar.
Use Microsoft Word like a rock tar. (Okay, I made that one up.)
Let’s be clear here. Mick Jagger is a rockstar. Paul McCartney is a rockstar. Shoot, even “Weird Al” Yankovic is more of a rockstar then most of us.
Even the top bloggers, who I will be nice enough to not name here, are guilty. Here are two post titles I came across:
“How to Be a RockStar in Your Niche.”
“Rockstar Plugins You May Not Know About” (Now even WordPress plugins can be rock stars!)
Rockstar meant something once.
Charismatic, passionate, attractive. (On second thought, looking at Arrowsmith’s Steven Tyler, maybe not so much that last one.)
This word holds no meaning anymore. The visual imagery is gone.
Because if everyone can be a rockstar, it isn’t that special anymore.
3. Anemic verb clichés.
My all-time favorite loser verb? Suck.
A Google search shows blog post titles like:
“How to Succeed at Content Marketing Even if Your Content Skills Suck”
“How to Write a Good Ebook—You Know, the Kind That Doesn’t Suck”
“6 Words that Make Your Résumé Suck”
And my personal favorite:
So I guess in the end, I could safely say, “Suck sucks”.
4. The multiple one-word sentence cliché.
You know what I’m talking about. As in: This. Is. So. Awesome.
In fact, in 2006, this one was on Copyblogger’s list of “Blogging Clichés That Need to Die.” Why are we still using it, 5 years later?
Is it ever okay to use a cliché?
Sometimes a cliché says what you want to say perfectly. I use this 3-part test:
• Does it appeal to one of the senses (can the reader picture it, hear it, smell it or touch it?)
• Does it evoke an emotion?
• Does it make my voice unique or do I just sound like everyone else?
If it works, I use it. If not, it’s gone.
What about you?
Are clichés in blog posts bothersome to you or not so much so?
Do you have a word or phrase that drives you crazy?
If you could erase one word from the collective memory of humankind, what would it be?