Strunk and Light II: Just Stop It!
... continued from yesterday ...
II. Just Stop It! Cliché already!
• atop: especially “perched atop”. It’s been a good 200 years since anyone really used this in conversation or in anything other than fiction and poetry. It’s archaic and therefore pretentious and doesn’t belong in the written language anymore. Just say “on top of”.
• save: for "except for", e.g.: I told no one about the gold, save my best friend. Same as “atop”. Would you ever use this word when speaking or writing an email? I hope not (‘cause if you would, you’d be pretentious.) just use “except for”.
• to don and to doff: for “to put on” and "to take off" as in I donned my parka, I doffed my hat. See the two above entries, you pretentious bad writer you. You don’t don shit. Come on!
• deft (esp. in criticism): currently the most overused word in America, by my unofficial survey. Here are some alternatives: skillful, sensitive, adroit, adept, subtle, dexterous, precise, neat, clever, able.
• to battle disease: why can’t people “fight” or “contest” or “defy” or “stand up to” or “wrestle with” or “contend with” cancer? Why do people always “battle” diseases? It’s not really even a verb.
• tiny: especially with reference to one’s children, as in “my tiny daughter” (which I’ve seen five different writers use recently, because apparently a tiny daughter is more moving than a small one). What ever happened to “small”? It’s like reverse Starbucks, where the smallest size is called “tall” so there’s basically nowhere to go but fake-talian. “Tiny” is actually smaller than “small”, and yet people are using “tiny” instead of “small” so there’s no way to get any smaller without using adverbs (really, really tiny.) Try using “small” first, then, when small doesn’t do it, go on down to “miniscule” or “microscopic” or “miniature” or “petite” or “diminutive.” Yeah.
• to grace the cover of: a magazine or book. You can just “be on” or “appear on” the cover of something. Your presence on the cover of something isn’t always a grace.
• slim volume: especially if it’s poetry. You might not have gotten the memo, but poetry is permitted to appear in “books” now. And when was the last time you saw a book of poetry (that wasn’t an anthology or collection) that wasn’t “slim”? I’ve also seen “slender” gaining ground on the volume front. What ever happened to “thin”, “narrow”, “short”, “brief”, “trim”, “slight” or “lean”? Or just not mentioning the thickness of the book? By the way, there’s also a version of this for unpublished poetry as well: “a slim sheaf of poems”. Why are manuscripts of poetry always “sheafs”? Why can’t they be just, plain “manuscripts”? Or how about “stacks”, “bundles”, “bunches” or “piles”? And why do people always have only “slim” sheafs of their own poetry? Could it be because they’re such cliché-beset poets that they have to throw most of their poems out?
• a wealth of: as in a wealth of information. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still relatively evocative, if only because we live in a capitalistic society where wealth is a metaphor for everything not covered by militaristic metaphors. But it’s overused now. Really. Just say “a lot of” or something.
Next time on Strunk and Light: What's the point of saying it?