Avoid cliches in journalism

Clichés pop up everywhere – super markets, a casual chat with your uncle, soap operas and unfortunately, journalism. A once clever quip becomes stomped on, ground down and glutted.  Chris Pash, a journalist working for DOW Jones, scoured Dow’s deeply coded Factiva article database – a mass of articles from 25,000 news sources –  which allowed Pash to hunt down the seven most over-used clichés in journalism.

Here are Pash’s top seven to avoid. Each link shows an example of the cliché in action.

At the end of the day:

Pash reels at this phrase in a news.com.au article, “I suspect at this point in history it is the most popular cliché in journalism globally,” Pash said.


 Split second:

The culprit can be spotted in the second paragraph of this CNN article.

About face:

Seen in this National Journal headline: O’Malley Does an About Face: Yes, We Are Better Off.

Unsung Heroes:

The Journal, a Martinsburg, WV newspaper named its annual Unsung Heroes feature after this one. Take a look.

Outpouring of support:

This video report from MSNBC, Outpouring of Support for Bullied Grandma,  uses the cliché in the headline and the transcript as well.

watch the video:  outpouring of support 

Last-ditch effort:   

This cliché is one of many adopted from sports writing. Here’s an example from the Boston Globe.

Concerned residents:

Residents ususally are. See how concerned they are here.

Clichés may be unavoidable. There are certain situations when a cliché may be the most appropriate way of conveying information. But this should be the exception, not the rule.  Clichés do not become cleverer with time. For instance, Pash estimates that the famous “Man Bites Dog” headline is still used somewhere in the world almost every week.

Try to avoid using these clichés and others. Your writing will only benefit.

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