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Words to live by

I just wrote this advice on a student essay after the student used the cliché "in the blink of an eye":

You should avoid clichés because they’re a dime a dozen. To be perfectly honest, there are more of them than you can shake a stick at. The cold truth is that they stick out like a sore thumb. This should be as plain as the nose on your face, much to your chagrin.

I’ve said this time and time again to students—until I’m blue in the face, actually—and it seems to go over their heads, fall on deaf ears, or go in one ear and out the other. But as a writer, you need to redouble your efforts and give 110 percent when you’re burning the midnight oil—or burning the candle at both ends—so you can seize the moment, carry the day (probably at the end of the day) and, when all is said and done, shout it to the world that you've kept your eyes on the prize and come through in the clutch with a cliché-free paper.

These words ring true, and I know them like the back of my hand. I could give this advice blindfolded, in my sleep or until the cows come home, but, going forward at this point in time, it's do or die. Unless students are ready to heed my advice, cast a keen eye over their copy, take a word from the wise, put their shoulders to the wheel and their noses to the grindstone, apply some elbow grease, face reality and work like a dog, their half-hearted efforts to avoid clichés will be in vain. All will be lost, and then there will be no crying over spilled milk because I will show no mercy when I go over their papers with a fine-toothed comb and tell it like it is: that only the best will do.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 30th, 2013 12:36 am (UTC)
Wow, you left no stone unturned.
Mar. 30th, 2013 01:05 am (UTC)
Truer words were never spoken.
Mar. 30th, 2013 01:14 am (UTC)
Your students must appreciate that you don't beat around the bush when offering critique - that probably goes without saying. But don't pin your hopes on them seeing the light - I think you're fighting an uphill battle.
Mar. 30th, 2013 03:21 am (UTC)
Sad but true.
Mar. 30th, 2013 01:54 pm (UTC)
Nothing has changed my use of cliche more than working with a person with English as a second language. The second or third time you use a cliche and they make you explain... well you get the message.

Do you have a colleague with English as a second language - invite them to your lecture on this topic and sample some of the student papers. :)

Yesterday my Russian speaking colleague had me explain "Peeps" and why you make art project from food.
Mar. 30th, 2013 10:10 pm (UTC)
I think I read somewhere that English is the hardest language to learn as a second language. I don't know of a reason to doubt it.
Mar. 30th, 2013 03:07 pm (UTC)
The cliche is like swearing...my mother always told me that you swear when you don't have anything better to say...BUT.... "You have definitely shown your students where the rubber meets the road!' Sorry didn't have anything better to say...Holiday
Mar. 30th, 2013 10:10 pm (UTC)
I swear for effect and because sometimes it makes me feel good.
Apr. 2nd, 2013 11:16 pm (UTC)
Fantastic advice, and fantastically delivered.
Apr. 3rd, 2013 01:21 am (UTC)
Thanks, Sam. If you're so inclined, shoot me an email and catch me up on House.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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