At the end of the day, what’s wrong with clichés? Why do critics squirm when they read about companies going from strength to strength? Why do editors put red pens through state of the art showrooms? And, more to the point, how do we avoid writing them?
Clichés are victims of their own success.
The first time someone wrote about grabbing the bull by the horns, raising the bar and rising to the challenge, they summed up in just a few words what the rest of us had been slaving over for hours. Try finding an alternative to ‘win-win situation’ and you realise how both clever and dreadful the phrase is.
Clichés make writing easy.
We don’t need to bother interviewing the CEO for the introduction to the annual report. We don’t need to find ways to make the bad things sound better. We can just talk about going forward in tough economic conditions while focusing on core competences, strategic alliances and new opportunities.
Clichés are hollow, lazy and insincere.
Because we know that these stock phrases have been said thousands of times before, by thousands of companies, we simply don’t believe them anymore. We learn nothing about what the company is really doing. And we feel just a teensy bit aggrieved that we’ve wasted our precious time reading them.
Clichés should be replaced with details.
The way to avoid clichés is to ask yourself ‘what are we actually saying?’ What do we mean by going from strength to strength? Have we doubled our turnover? Appointed 25 new people? Opened new offices in Dubai? Cut overheads by 20%?
Clichés are shorter than truths.
What you won’t be able to do when you replace clichés with details is sum it up in three words or less. Explaining that you’re introducing a new quality control system that monitors every transaction, issues a weekly report and publishes the results online for everyone to see is going to take up a lot more space than saying you’ve raised the bar. But it does carry a lot more weight so to make space for your truths you have to cut all that bullshit at the beginning about difficult trading platforms, value added propositions and leveraging synergies.
The alternatives to clichés:
The business is going from strength to strength.
Turnover has increased from £250,000 to £400,000 in less than 18 months.
We are leveraging our strategic alliances to deliver greater efficiencies.
We’re working with partners to make the most of what everyone has to offer and cut unnecessary costs.
Despite tough economic conditions, we have invested in a state of the art facilitation centre.
Despite low interest rates making it difficult to achieve predicted profits, we were able to fund a new service department.
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