Cliches

These should be used as little as possible. Original thinking is much better than one of these overworked phrases.

  • -gate on any kind of political scandal. Watergate was 40-odd years ago. What possible relevance has it today? What must younger readers make of it? However you have to admire ‘Gategate’ for the Andrew Mitchell affair.

  • any time soon

  • anyone for tennis? or ace on any tennis story

  • at the end of the day

  • at this moment in time

  • back in the day

    biological clock is ticking, or adding a tautology for good measure, biological time clock is ticking

  • bad day at the office

  • blue skies thinking

  • broad daylight (what is the alternative? Narrow daylight?)

  • catch-22 situation: If you absolutely have to use it, it should be l/c – use the cap only for the book title.

  • crazed killer

  • egg or eggs as a replacement prefix for ‘ex’, often in the context of Easter, such as ‘eggcellent’ or ‘eggstraordinary’. There is not one variation that has not been used thousands of times, and they are all very tiresome.

  • elephant in the room

  • emotional rollercoaster

  • every parent’s worst nightmare

  • fighting for his/her life

  • From Russia with Love on any story to do with Russia and romance

  • game-changer/changing: New but catching on quickly

  • going forward

  • if I tell you that, I’ll have to kill you

  • it was worse than the Blitz

  • it’s a dog’s life on any story about dogs

  • it’s not rocket science

  • kept themselves to themselves: I must have seen this at least a thousand times.

  • leafy, as in suburb; manicured, as in lawn; neat, as in semi-detached home.

  • learning curve, particularly the steep kind.

  • love nest

  • love triangle

  • monkey business on any story about monkeys or, far worse, apes - see my rant in The Natural World

  • moving on with my life

  • no-brainer

  • not a happy bunny

  • on a wing and a prayer: Frequently used in stories about old planes and those folk who jump off mountains in bat suits. Please stop it.

  • one in headlines about the Queen or royalty: it might have been smart the first few hundred times, but now it is lazy and boring.

  • ooh la la! on any story about France or the French.

  • over the moon

  • p-p-p-penguin (or p-p-p words on penguin stories): This comes from a 1970s advert. Surely it is time to let the poor old thing rest in peace. It wasn’t funny even at the time.

  • pool of blood

  • race against time

  • same old, same old: Suddenly this is everywhere.

  • sex kitten, as applied to Brigitte Bardot – yes, some geriatric reporters (and subs) are still using it.

  • sick as a parrot

  • singing from the same hymnsheet

  • Teutonic efficiency

  • thinking outside the box

  • tied/tying the knot

  • to coin a phrase: Often used in an attempt to justify the use of a cliche. It doesn’t work – all you achieve is two cliches for the price of one. It’s no use trying ‘They say that  . . .’ either.

  • touch base

  • tug of love, or even worse, love tug

  • unhealthy obsession: Can anyone think of a healthy obsession? (Thanks to a former colleague, Jayme Bryla, who came up with ‘an obsession with going to the gym’.)

  • unholy row: I must have seen this several hundred times in headings and intros about clergy and churches. Likewise Holy Smoke and Heavens Above.

  • up, up and away on any story about balloons, helicopters or assorted flying objects. This was the title of a truly frightful 60s pop song, and it hasn’t got any better for being dragged out at regular intervals for nearly 50 years. I am begging you.

  • wake up and smell the coffee

  • what’s not to like?

  • worse than animals as applied to nasty behaviour: I particularly dislike this one as animals do not use violence for its own sake.

  • [someone or something] we all love to hate

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Last updated April 19, 2017