Avoid Clichés in Writing by Getting Specific

When you read a blog post, article, or other piece of writing that suddenly makes a subject crystal clear for you or makes information jump off the page, it can be easy to chalk it up to the writer’s innate talent for description or analysis. However, becoming a successful writer is not a birthright. It is an acquired art. Developing journalistic skill takes time, dedication, and practice. To become a good writer, you have to learn to recognize what you don’t know and then take the time to learn it.

One of the most difficult skills to master is specificity in language. The goal of any writer is to make the reader see, feel, taste, and experience the written words. Great writing forms an image in the reader’s mind so clear and precise that it leaves no doubt about its intent.

This is why clichés should be avoided wherever possible in blog writing. And we’re not just talking about “synergy.”

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In a blog, you have a limited number of words to make your point. Your audience has no time for guesswork. It is your job to make them understand exactly what you are saying. Give the reader a specific mental image of your idea. The English language has over 490,000 words for you to choose from. Choose words that will engage the reader. Make your words memorable.

Three Clichés to Toss from Your Writing

There are a few phrases that particularly irk us when we see them kicking around in blog posts — words that you might not even think of as clichés, but essentially serve the same purpose. They’re filler words that passively connote certain things to readers but don’t really add any value or flavor to the writing. They’re the written equivalent of popcorn without salt: they’ll fill space, but they don’t satisfy you or provide any real nutritional content.

The antidotes to cliché are specificity and description. Here are three phrases to toss from your writing in favor of juicier, more particular prose.

1. In today’s world…

Unless you’re explicitly talking about a time in the past or another planet, it’s obvious you’re talking about right now, in our world. But just what are you trying to say?

Take this July headline from the LA Times:

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What other world would we be talking about? Deleting that prepositional phrase entirely would give the headline more punch. Even better would be to come up with something more specific: “In global politics,” for instance, would give the reader a whole lot more information about the content of the article than the bland filler the writer (or, more likely, the editor) has chosen to use.

We see this phrase or some variation on it (“In the modern world” and “In today’s economy” come to mind) all the time, and at best, it’s unnecessary — at worst, it’s awkward and distracting.

2. Technology

Here’s the definition of technology.

In other words, everything from fire to the wheel to the internal combustion engine to the printing press right up to the iPhone 6s is technology.

When we say “technology,” we usually mean “computer technology” or “digital technology.” But using the word as a catchall for those things is vague and doesn’t convey much meaning. “With recent advances in technology, we can instantly communicate with people in remote areas across the globe.” What kind of technology? How does it facilitate that communication? Of course, a full explanation may not be necessary for what you’re writing, but even a little specificity (“satellite technology”?) adds value to the prose.

And then, of course, using the blanket word “technology” to refer to everything that beeps, clicks, or connects to the internet can simply make you sound out of touch. You may as well write about the series of tubes that delivers your electronic mail via the World Wide Web. Showing even a glimmer of more sophisticated and specific understanding gives the overall piece of writing more authority.

3. Solution

All apologies to marketers, but this is one marketing phrase that needs to be scaled waaaaayyyyy back, particularly in writing that isn’t part of sales and marketing materials.

“In today’s economy, small businesses need technology solutions they can trust.” Yikes! Triple whammy.

Yes, sometimes a solution really is a solution, i.e., it solves a problem. But when we say solution, what we usually mean is more along the lines of a service or platform. “Solution” brings to mind a neat, packaged answer to a math problem, when real life and business are much messier. Verblio wants to be your content solution, for example, but we don’t say that, because even our super easy blog content platform isn’t a magic wand.

Say it Better: Get Specific

These are just three examples of clichés to avoid in content writing. These euphemisms give connotation, not concrete meaning to your reader. Learn to recognize those phrases that are just acting as filler, and find a way to say what you really mean.

Choosing the right words takes time and practice. Edit with a purpose. Re-write until you have eliminated any thoughts or phrases that don’t give your reader a fuller, more detailed picture of what you’re trying to convey.

Say it in your own words, and make every word count.

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Verblio

This post was written, as well as any other posts with the author "Verblio," by one of our 3,000+ U.S.-based writers who write for thousands of clients monthly, across 38 different industries. Only the top 4% of writers who apply with Verblio get accepted, so our standards for writers (and content) are high.

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