Strunk and Light
On this page are gathered all my Strunk and Light posts, prescriptive arm twisters that tell you what not to use, offering no credentials or justifications whatsoever.
"Strunk and Light" is a list of my pet cliché peeves that I keep as a part of my own writing practice. I find that once I've listed something in Strunk and Light, I'm much, much less likely to use it unthinkingly in the generative flow of new writing. It keeps me thinking about language in a much more precise and awake manner. I also gave a list to my students when I was teaching. They took it without commentary, because they were students. However, I expect people who are not my students to disagree. Go ahead! Just remember, this is just my opinion of what is overused or clichéd. The list is long, so I'll be posting it in several segments over the next few days.
Words and expressions go in and out of fashion, just like accessories. Word trends last longer than clothing trends, but they work in exactly the same way: someone goes looking for something distinctive to wear on the page, and finds a word or expression that has such a good effect that all the hipsters in the immediate vicinity pick up on it. Soon the word-accessory is the latest thing in writing, the thing that marks its user as a member of the avant garde. The moment the generality of writers realizes this, the word-accessory’s usefulness – as a hip-defining element, and as a fresh, revealing expression – is gone.
Unfortunately, it takes the generality of writers forever to realize this themselves, so its use drags on and on, becoming more and more degraded until you find it tainting every other page on the bookshelves at Walmart. The thing about word-accessories is that they creep into your wardrobe through your half-conscious mind, and often, you don’t even know you’re wearing them. Be aware. Start your own list.
RULE O’ THUMB: IF YOU’VE HEARD IT BEFORE, DON’T USE IT.