Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bloggers Beware: The Cliché Stops Here



"You can't fight it. It's in your blood," he said.

This was a college classmate telling me not to fight the pull journalism and English had on me as it came time to declare a major. He knew Mama was a journalist, a writer, a published author. And eventually, I did declare English as my major. 

I loved my writing courses. But I still dragged my feet all the way through journalism and working on the student newspaper. I was determined not to become my mother. Not that it worked, I eventually would take a job at a newspaper, but I didn't have her skill for investigation. For getting to the heart of a story. I don't like asking people questions. I'd rather spend the day with them and let them tell me their story over time. Journalism's tight deadlines don't provide that luxury. 

But I do like writing. And English. And I eventually became a book editor, of all things. As a tutor, I refused to mark on my students' papers. I made them mark their own corrections. But then I started editing books, and I had to be the one marking things up, usually for writers I have never met. 

I have never been a grammar geek. I had (maybe still have) a terrible habit of run-on sentences. My academic career was plagued by my insistence on using fragments for effect. And my use of contractions very nearly cost me my master's thesis. 

The only grammar lesson I remember clearly is the lecture given by my journalism professor on commas. Although I know I still do it wrong. (Sorry, Neil.) I find errors in my own writing constantly. I am sure if you've been around here for any period of time, you have too.

But I promise you all, I try. I do try to get it right. I am forever reading and re-reading and editing my own work. This blog may not have a wide audience, but I want what you read to be quality. 

The thing about this virtual library called the internet, or about walking into a bookstore or library these days, is you realize how many "writers" there are. Self-publishing and e-books and blogs have opened the world of writing to just about anyone.

But not everyone who writes is a writer. Not in the sense that they study the art of language. And that fact is never more clear to me than when I read blogs. Now before you go argue with me on this, let me remind you that I just told you that I too make errors and mistakes when I write on my blog. When I write period. I am not in the habit of reading with a critical eye. I don't edit everything, usually only what I'm paid to read.

But there is one big mistake that many bloggers make that I just can't overlook. It's my writing pet-peeve, I suppose. It's the nails on the chalkboard, when I come across it in my online browsing.

Jumbled up clichés.

I cringe every time someone uses "mute point" when they wanted to say moot. Or that they want to "nip it in the butt", rather than the bud. Or they have a "road to hoe," rather than a row. Or they use for "all intensive purposes," not realizing that the phrase is intents and purposes. And the "luck stops here" simply doesn't have the same meaning as the buck stops here.

I sort of get it. I mean I was the child who said "I sawl" instead of saw for far longer than I should have, because that's what I thought everyone else was saying. I still remember the day Mama told me I was wrong. I get that many of these mix-up clichés sound similar. But they're not. They don't mean the same thing. If you're writing for work or for pleasure, and if you insist on using clichés, get them right and you'll make us all happy readers and writers.   

8 comments:

  1. Ha! I absolutely agree, Shelby. Maybe the average people don't dissect and question the cliches that they've heard and used since childhood, but writers should be more aware of what they are putting into words. In this internet jungle of carelessly written words, it's good to come across some that are thoughtful.

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    1. I think you're right, Shawna. People seem to write how they speak without thinking about what they're saying or writing. Thanks for reading! And I'll keep trying to get it right.

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  2. I am constantly editing Hayley's papers and she definitely writes like she talks :) It is a problem I continue to work on with her and she is six months away from graduating and becoming an RN. I hope her chart notes are better than her papers. Of course she is taking her first stab at blogging while she is on her trip to Kenya. You can follow her and her team at:
    http://kenyacats.wordpress.com/ but just beware when you see Hayley's writing that no one is editing!

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    1. Thanks for passing on Hayley's blog. I'll have to check it out. I promise no editing will be involved. :-D You're a good Mama to be helping a girl out though. I say it all the time, even editors need editors. We all need a second set of eyes. But there are some things that ought not happen as often as they do.

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  3. So I should stray away from all these things you mention? Or should I stay away from them? And that "sawl" thing? Nowhere near as bad as sister Konnie's "Hold the Guatemala" please.

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    1. Yes. Yes. All of that. I see the Guatemala/guacamole thing as being a slightly different problem, but a problem none-the-less.

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  4. My peeve of peeves is "I could care less" when uttered by someone who is clearly trying to convey that they cannot.

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    1. That is probably the most commonly misused cliche out there. I hear it all the time too.

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