Cliches and Epistemology

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As a writer interested in improving, I have subscribed to Daphne Gray-Grant's free Power Writing newsletter. Her tips have been helpful and fun to read. However, I often have to fight the urge to keep my self expression instead of adopting these improvements.

Her latest tip suggests that we drop cliches, but that got my brain turning.

  • Since blogs are less formal, we like colloquialisms, cliches, catch-phrases and contractions. (Some of us also approve of alliterations and acronyms, kwim?)
  • While I write to promote Sonlight and get the word out about this great product, I'm not exactly in marketing. I'm here to build friendships, to show myself honest and trustworthy, and learn what makes other homeschoolers tick. So, if I'm not crystal clear and to the point in my ramblings... that's almost good. It shows that I'm a person, not a corporation trying to sell something. I'm not. I'm here to let people know about Sonlight, my experience with it, and to find ways to make it even better for families everywhere.
  • There's something about a well-placed cliche that makes me smirk. And I do like to smirk.

All that to say: You may see some cliches crop up here and there on this blog. Sorry, Daphne.

My, my, but this post is getting long. I'll try to rapidly bring this to a close:

Another topic that fascinates me is that of Epistemology: how we know what we know. I bumped into a article today about carbon dating (you know, the whole Carbon 14/12C/13C thing... okay, me either). I followed the article's logic fairly well, but by the end I was pretty much lost. And I think the problem was that the author started to rely generalizations and stereotypes--another form of cliche--rather than reason, logic or good argumentation.

The same seems to be true of politics.

And a lot of religious discussion.

So, I'm going to agree with Daphne here: Let's cut the cliches. At least, for the most part.

~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

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7 Comments

  1. mary grace

    I think a well-timed and well-placed cliche can convey a lot to your readers. Saying that they are verboten reminds me of my 10th grade English teacher's rules about writing; they were vast, they were specific and they were iron-clad! This very same teacher extolled the virtues of ee cummings on an almost daily basis.

    Yeah, I never got that, either.

  2. The Small Scribbler

    Cliches...my John calls them twitticisms. I wonder if that will catch on and become a cliche?

  3. Luke

    Yes, I don't understand English teachers either.

    I'll have to keep "twitticisms" in my back pocket for a rainy day <smile>. That's good stuff there.

    Thanks for commenting!

    ~Luke

  4. Ganeida

    One person's cliche is another's imaginative comment. I refered to *lounge lizards*, which is definitely a cliche in Oz, to find my American friends were charmed, having never heard it before.

  5. Luke

    I must confess that I had never heard "lounge lizards" before. That is an excellent point!

    ~Luke

  6. Angela Fehr

    As an artist, I do my best work when I forget the "rules" and do what comes naturally.
    I think that blogging is a form of writing that is more of a conversation, and thus there is value in maintaining a conversational style. Of course, I never actually use the word 'thus' so I've just failed there!
    For me the challenge is to continually keep in mind "what exactly am I trying to say" and find the words to fit it, whether they are cliche or original.

  7. Luke

    Angela,

    You make some great points. And I use the word "thus" frequently... just not in speech. Of course, one of the great things about writing is I can pretend to be more eloquent than I actually am <smile>.

    ~Luke