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Talking It Over -- Beat the cliche habit

Quite often when I attend writing seminars, we are advised to try to avoid using cliches too often in our columns and articles. I find that this advice is sometimes difficult to follow and would like to share with you this story that proves the point.

Cliches are like the plague -- apparently with us forever. It is time we did something about cliches. Take my word for it: we're being invaded by cliches. It's high time we stopped beating around the bush and responded to this invasion. I am issuing today a call to arms, hoping to light a fire under my fellow toilers in journalistic vineyards and stir them from their blissful ignorance here at the 11th hour. If I can find enough kindred spirits, we may be able to nip this cliche invasion in the bud.

I suppose the burden of proof of an invasion lies with me. Fine. I do not shrink from that imposing challenge. Though the task looms large, I have every confidence that I have not bitten off more than I can chew. I believe with all my heart I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not crying wolf; good writing has fallen on hard times and may be in mortal danger.

Cliches go hand in glove with sloppy writing. They pretend to be our friends, eager to stand by us, ready to spring to our defense in time of peril. But they are wolves in sheep's clothing. They slip into our writing like thieves in the night. In the blink of an eye, they drive out precise wording and throw up roadblocks against any newness of expression. You can see for yourself. Cast a jaundiced eye at the columns of your newspapers. See any cliches? Of course. They're as thick as hops. (You can bet your boots you will never hear a cliche pass my lips; I will fight them until my dying breath.)

How do we stem this menacing tide? You may well ask. My answer is short and sweet, and straight from the shoulder: The bottom line is that we must pledge ourselves to a superhuman effort to keep a sharp eye out for cliches in every line we pen. We must fight tooth and nail to make dead certain that cliches do not get within a stone's throw of our pages. We must go through our writing with a fine-tooth comb in our relentless search for cliches.

But to reach that higher plateau, we must keep our noses to the grindstone. We must stick to the job, day in and day out, through thick or thin, come what may, to the bitter end. When they bring down the curtain and we have shuffled off this mortal coil, people will know in their hearts we have earned our place in the sun by fighting the good fight.

We are all in the same boat here. We have a rare chance to get in on the ground floor of a noble cause. Let us help our fellow citizens and fellow writers. Let's fight! Lend me a helping hand. We'll let no grass grow under our feet as we read the riot act to lazy writers. It's time to stand up and be counted. You have a golden opportunity here to make a mark for yourself. Don't let it slip through your fingers.

In other words, get to the point as simply and quickly as possible!