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Clichés of the trade

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Jan. 1, 2009 at 5:51 am |
January 1, 2009 5:51 am

I read a lot of editorials from newspapers around the country in order to compile the “What others are saying” digest that runs Saturdays.


The following St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial – which takes a humorous look at clichés editorial writers tend to fall back on – struck a nerve. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these clichés had wormed their way into our editorials over the past year.


I resolve to try to avoid them in 2009. I’m just glad the list doesn’t include “on the other hand,” “shovel-ready” and “win-win.” I don’t know how we’d be able to opinionate without them.


Here’s the editorial:


Cliché watch: Words matter


The National Conference of Editorial Writers — a group of savants whose erudition is matched only by their comeliness — recently engaged in a bout of self-examination. The topic: words and phrases that have outlived their usefulness or that weren’t all that useful in the first place.


Believing, as we do, that cliches should be avoided like the plague and obfuscation always should be eschewed, we hereby present the results of the NCEW’s survey, along with selected commentary by various NCEW savants:


&bull Issues and challenges. “No one has problems anymore,” said one editor. “We have ‘issues.’ Likewise, we have ‘challenges.’… Why isn’t that a ‘problem’?”


&bull Faith-based. “Almost 100 percent of the time this phrase is used, the user means ‘religious,’ and they should just suck it up and use the real term.”


&bull Going forward. “Not with this phrase, you are not.”


&bull Perfect storm. “A wretched phrase now attached to every storm under the clear blue sky. … Not every storm is perfect. Even in Lake Wobegon.”


&bull At the end of the day. “At the end of the day, all I’m looking for is a good martini.”


&bull Proactive. “Needs to be retroactively banished from the language.”


&bull Input, prioritize, buzz, buzz words, time will tell. “All banned in Detroit,” said Ron Dzwonkowski, who runs the editorial page at the Detroit Free Press. “At least that’s the plan as I understand it. Bottom line.”


&bull Declined comment. “We’re not inviting people to tea parties here. We’re asking questions. … They didn’t ‘decline comment.’ They ‘would not comment.’”


&bull Closure. “An appalling word that crept out from the woodwork of psychobabble where it squats, poisoning the language, above all in journalism.”


Going forward, we will proactively avoid these buzzwords, but only time will tell whether, at the end of the day, the challenges presented by the perfect storm of the news will permit us to prioritize our input on this issue. Which brings us to closure.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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