An Ode to the Cliche, Part 1

Most plain language style guides recommend that writers avoid the cliche. None that I’ve found, though, say why. I know the usual arguments–cliches are vague and so overused that they’ve lost meaning–but I thought, Why not prove the rule and maybe find the exception? 

Here I’ve written a short essay on plain language in cliche-ese. Read it. Then count the number of cliches. Next time I’ll tell you how many there are, and we’ll torture the essay to extract what little meaning we can from it without the cliches.

To get the most bang for your buck out of plain language, you have to go the extra mile and pound the pavement for examples of top-notch plain language writing you can emulate. When you find them, you can’t just take the 30,000-ft. view; you have to zero in to figure out what makes those writing samples tick.

You see, plain language is a whole different animal. It doesn’t shout its message from the rooftops, but it doesn’t beat around the bush, either; Plain language can make its case without a lot of fanfare.

So if you want to write in plain language style, you have to bring your A game to the table, keep your nose to the grindstone and your ear to the ground, and keep looking high and low for examples you can emulate. At the end of the day, that’s the best way to maximize your plain-language ROI.

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