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Do Clichés Deserve The Bad Press They Get?

February 5th, 2021

First, thanks to Sharon for last week’s post. She’s absolutely right – you don’t need to be recognised as an ‘expert’ to offer valuable advice to other writers. You just need a lively mind, good ideas, an understanding of how the writing world works and, of course, empathy and the desire to help.

This week’s post is going to be something  of a rag bag because I’ve been reading lots of interesting bits and pieces over the past few days.

First up is a piece I read in the Sunday Times by Stig Abell about clichés. One fact that was included in the article was fascinating: “It (the word cliché) comes from the past participle of the French verb ‘clicher’, meaning ‘to click’. It is printers’ jargon for a stereotype – a printing plate that allowed a single page of type to be reproduced endlessly – derived from the noise it made slotting into place.” The plate gradually got worn down after much usage – just as a cliché is a phrase repeated so often its meaning gets degraded!

In the course we always tell students to avoid them and think of an original description instead.  But writing and real life aren’t always the same and the article makes the point that although the use of clichés can lead to sloppy writing, they still have a part to play in basic, clear communication. They have become clichés because they express familiar sentiments  – a kind of general currency that helps us to communicate in difficult and emotional times.

Next a couple of podcasts that you might be interested in. First there’s Longform, which hosts a weekly conversation with a non-fiction writer on how they tell stories. There is thoughtful and intelligent conversation plus practical tips for aspiring writers from respected journalists, essayists and interviewers.

And for readers we have Literary Friction. This is a monthly conversation about books and ideas on NTS Radio hosted by friends Carrie Plitt, a literary agent, and Octavia Bright, a writer and academic. Each show features an author interview, book recommendations, lively discussion and a little music too, all built around a related theme. Recent authors have included Sally Johnson, Deborah Levy, Daisy Johnson and Reni Eddo-Lodge.

For the poets amongst you we have Butcher’s Dog, a bi-annual poetry magazine founded and published in North East England. They say: “Eligible poets should currently be based in the UK or ROI. Each issue includes some authors who share a connection to Northern England or whose poems explore ‘the North’ thematically or tangentially. Our poets don’t exclusively live in the North or write about it. We include a strong mix of work.

“So what do we publish? Put simply: great poetry. There is no other theme. We read your work completely anonymously and publish established authors alongside previously unpublished and emerging voices. It’s our ethos to publish accomplished poems by the most exciting poets. Go on,  blow our hair back!”

Full submission details for their next issue are available here but please note that the submission window closes at midnight on 14th February.

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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