Writing tip: Cliches can be your friend. Or your enemy.
By Jerry Brown, APR
Public Relations Counsel
Cliches have a bad reputation. But I’m here to defend them.
We all use them. And certain phrases become cliches because they work. So, they get used. Over. And over. And over.
I didn’t learn to write in school. I learned to write in newsrooms during the 20 years I spent committing journalism. Deadlines looming. And a limited number of words allowed.
Under those circumstances, cliches were often my friend. Why? Because they make a point or paint an image that we all get in just a few words without a lot of explanation needed.
But they don’t always work. If you use cliches to avoid saying anything worth hearing, your audience is likely to get bored and tune you out.
And many of us have our pet peeves when it comes to cliches. At least I do. One of mine: Think outside the box. When I hear someone say that, I know they almost always are not thinking outside the box. They’re using a cliche to make a point about thinking and doing things differently.
In fact, there’s a case to be made for thinking inside the box when telling your story.
What’s the one thing you want the rest of us to hear, understand and remember? In other words, what’s your message?
Make that message the box containing your story. And make everything else you say to tell your story fit inside that box. Your story will be clearer. The way that was explained to me as a young reporter was to write a lead that told readers the guts of what happened. And then use the rest of the story to fill in the details.
So, when should you use cliches? And when should you avoid them?
I think those are the wrong questions. The real questions: Have you told your story in a way that gives the rest of us a reason to care? Have you made it simple to understand? And have you told the truth to the best of your ability?
We all have stories to tell. Do you need help telling yours?
Jerry Brown, APR, is a public relations professional and former journalist who helps clients get their stories heard, understood and remembered. Need help telling your story? You can reach Jerry at 303-594-8016 | jerry@JerryBrownPR.com.