As nerdy as this may sound, I subscribe to an enewsletter dedicated to grammar tips. I know it may not be possible to always follow grammar rules in 140 characters or less, but I think it is important to at least know when you are breaking rules and so I enjoy the occasional refresher on the technical aspects of good writing. But today’s email wasn’t about the finer points of punctuation or word usage, it was about clichés.
Clichés seem to have taken over modern discourse these days, from the daily news stream of Washington sound bites to the endless prattle of marketing advice blogs (and yes, I see the irony here.) Are we sick of phrases like “kicking the can down the road” or “curating content” yet? Seriously, the other day I saw a video for a new company whose mission is to send you “curated snacks” in the mail. Enough already!
The thing about clichés is they only become clichés when they are clever and memorable. And who can’t resist being clever and memorable? To quote my grammar newsletter here, “There’s no such thing as an ineffective cliché, or it’s not really a cliché.” Clichés in writing and in marketing are so ubiquitous, we sometimes don’t even notice we are using them. To prove the point, the Grammarbook blog included this 600 word cliché masterpiece which is worth reading just to see how many of these phrases make it into your own daily speech.
But what happens when your marketing programs become cliché? Send an email, click to a landing page, download a whitepaper. Repeat weekly. Tweet a heartfelt image on the next holiday. Giveaway an iPad to the umpteenth fan on Facebook. When you start to recognize there’s a bandwagon in town, it’s time to sing a new tune (groan.)
It can be really hard to come up with new ways of doing things that have become comfortable and usually work to one degree or another. But it is worth the effort to be original and fresh. Our filters today are honed to tune out the meaningless noise we hear over and over, which may explain why we don’t express more outrage each and every day over Washington shenanigans. Review your marketing plans to see where you might have inadvertently wandered into cliché territory. Sometimes it helps to have someone new review what you have been doing. Ask a colleague or a consultant to look at your plans with fresh eyes (doh!) and tell you where you might be missing the boat (doh! again). And to review your copy to clean out the cliché cobwebs (you get the point.)
If you need someone to be the bearer of bad news, I’m here for you! (sigh.)