The Glottal Stop

A Vilification of the Cliché

Posted in Opinion, Politics, Writing by admin on August 19, 2010

Throughout May, there was much discontent demonstrated by the electorate towards politicians. A good portion of this was a reflection of the public’s disappointment in policies that the main party leaders were proposing and disillusionment over their constant attempts at undermining each other, rather than developing and portraying their own merits. Another portion of this discontent was in the way that Brown, Cameron and Clegg all sounded exactly alike in their use of uninspired, meaningless political language. Speeches were cliché ridden, uncreative and hackneyed. The main party leaders were constantly resorting to some overused sound-bite or party slogan – ‘biggest fight’, ‘A future fair for all’, ‘change that works for you’ and ‘vote for change’. The whole event was frankly banal. The voters couldn’t even bring themselves to assign a majority to one of the parties.

Just as with politicians, writers should heed warnings about the use of clichés – particularly the most threadbare – lest they should incur the censure of their reader and ultimately begin to lose their audience.

We are all aware of clichés within our speech and our writing. To use a cliché here and there to help with the flow of a quick utterance, or to quickly convey a slightly more elaborate meaning within informal speech, is perfectly acceptable. However, we all know those writers, publications, or even acquaintances where the use of the ‘odd’ cliché is far too commonplace – this is where clichés start to grate:

To use too many clichés is, at the end of the day, after all things considered, worthy of a chorus of disapproval. But it may be down to a chapter of accidents that they exist; circumstances beyond control – but each to their own. Personally they make me sick as a parrot. Writers who use them should turn over a new-leaf; but then again, you can’t teach and old dog new tricks.

See what I mean? The overuse of clichés resulting in the defilement of your writings is just as criminal as continually using a flurry of exclamation marks where they just aren’t warranted.

Most clichés begin life as someone’s witty phrase for expressing or emphasising a thought. Though, clichés that are intelligent are often adopted and repeated by many. Multiply their use by a million, and you have the overused, tired husks of someone’s originality.

To overuse clichés is to have a complete disregard for the quality of your work; you are effectively writing something without meaning. When a reader sees a cliché they skim over it; they have seen it a million times before and it means the same thing as it always has to them. It is not your writing, it is not your creation; it is just a space-filler. Why use a cliché and give up the perfect opportunity to use a well placed and highly apt adjective or a beautifully crafted metaphor or simile?

No matter how hard you try, no cliché will be able to convey the feelings you are trying to portray. Often, the poverty of words can make describing an abstract emotion difficult; but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you take the time to meticulously construct a sentence you can invoke, within the reader, the valuable connotations and associations that exist within language – your writing will seem all the better for it.

 

Alexander. B