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©2019 by Right-Handed Writing. All rights reserved.

Tool #16 Seek Original Names

Updated: Jan 13

Last week, I shared why it's important to pay attention to names. In that post, I gave you advice on why it is critical to talk to people about their names. It makes a deeper connection with the people you are working with. It also helps you find out how their name relates to who they are individuals. Even better, bridge the gap and learn why they identified their company with the name they chose. When it comes to talking to people, it's essential to be sincere and genuine. One of the best ways to do this is to avoid cliches, says Roy Peter Clark, in his book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. 

This week's post is about those worn-out metaphors called cliches. Anytime you sell something, create marketing techniques that are fresh, not familiar. Although you want to make sure you can make a connection with your customer, overusing specific phrases gets stale quickly and could potentially drive your customers away

How to Avoid Cliches in Your Content Marketing


Clark shares some invaluable advice on how to overcome the obstacle of bad writing. Whenever you find yourself tempted to use overplayed phrases--as many sports stars can be guilty of (think: "We fought hard," or "We'll play it one game at a time"), consider "scribbling alternatives." For example, if you are tempted to sell something that is "white as snow," change it to something like, "white as Snow White," or "white as an Alaskan morning."

Content writers may not have the luxury to do what Saul Pett, a prize-winning reporter, was known to do: spend countless hours brainstorming the perfect comparisons. But don't get discouraged. If you are on a time crunch, be straightforward.

For instance, think about this line for a company that sells roof replacements. Instead of saying

"When it's raining cats and dogs inside your home, call us for a free roof replacement estimate!"

Try this:

"When the inside of your house looks like the outside, call us for a free roof replacement estimate!"

This technique is a straight-up straight talk method.

Cliches of Vision

Could there possibly be anything worse than an overused phrase? Yes, and Donald Murray refers to this as "cliches or vision," or "the narrow frames through which writers learn to see the world." One of my most favorite phrases I use all the time is, "It's your world; I'm just living in it." (Cliche? Maybe. But it helps me sell original ideas, which is more important than my own personal-life mantras.)

Knowing that the world is seen in so many ways, by so many different people, I don't use my lens to capture the essence of my surroundings. I don't fall prey to overused ideas that could potentially get me in trouble, or worse, loss a sell. Instead, I don't assume anything stereotypical of my consumers. I may make some guestimates on what their needs are, but I also get to know them and their needs. Major difference.

Wherever you read, you are bound to run into some cliches. Take today's newspaper, and circle all of the news stories that are "old news," like the corrupt politician or the lady with the botched plastic surgery.

Clear the Cliches

While I am not necessarily condoning sarcasm, certain cliches need to be called out.

Bloggers can be guilty of using cliches in headlines. I read one that said, "The Rise of Emotional Support Animals Leave Board Members Howling." While it may sound catchy at first, think of how many articles you've read about animals and howling. Why not just say what is going on: "The Rise of Emotional Support Animals Concerns Board Members." There. Simple and to the point.

Need help writing words that don't include cliches? Schedule your free consultation with me today!


Clark, R. P. (2008). Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. Columbus, GA: Little, Brown.