Writing With Style - Checklist of Loathsome Cliches and "The Seven Deadly Sins"

When I was first learning a foreign language my instructor said the only way to really know any culture was through its language. Today I wonder how foreigners learn American English. We Americans are the little lambs that have lost our way by straying into the hell of *The Garden of Earthly Delights, where we've languished far too long.
In-Style Does Not Mean Un-Cool
We can't all be Pulitzer folks nor do we have to be. But we can try to write with style rather than continue to corrupt our native language. Sometimes I think we do it to be cool. But has cool become another cliché for no respect? When we have no respect for our written and spoken language, it affects our body language, the way we dress and how the world sees us as a people.
For example, when did that little preposition "of" disappear from the American vocabulary?
  • A radio broadcaster told his audience he would be on leave for "the next couple weeks."
  • A Washington Post columnist recalled "the first couple days" of a press tour.
  • Before leaving the party "he had a couple beers."
The tiny word "of" is the difference between literate and, well you know. Unless you're deliberately writing dialect, which is extremely difficult, bastardizing the language works for people who use code, like Brokers, spies and assorted Internet users. Webster's Dictionary of English Usage is not out of print; it is not "so 90s" to use correct instead of sloppy English.
These Slithy Toads Of Jabberwocky Are Redundant
  • Close proximity - The Siamese Twins are so ubiquitous I'm beginning to believe our school system is fatally broken and no one, including the media, has ever checked Webster's for their meaning. Stop! Stop! Stop!
  • High Alert - Our government constantly uses these two words. Alert means vigilant, conscious, watchful. Does low alert mean half conscious? We're either alert, or we're not alert and in big trouble.
  • Aiding and abetting also mean the same, as do many other English words that drive non-native speakers nuts.

Be True to Your Readers
You will recognize the following copycat jargon and clichés embedded like weeds in an editor's garden of evil. Calling attention to some of them, before you strike the first computer key or take pen to paper, will start you thinking of the myriad others, which have become lazy writing/speaking habits.
  • At the end of the day - Yawn
  • Mass exodus - Is there another kind of exodus?
  • Small exodus - Say What?
  • Bored to tears - Huh?
  • Broad daylight - How broad is that?
  • At the crack of dawn - All I hear are roosters.
  • Clear as mud - Yikes!
  • Beat around the bush -Um, 16th century Old English?
  • The four corners of the earth - So it really is flat?
  • Think outside the box - I'm gagging.
  • Point of no return - Remake of a remake of a remake... of a...

Writing Outside The Lines
For those who write fiction or lyrics, the following is an example of a talented artist who can put sentences together without the same clichés, the sloppy grammar and worn out phrases:
  • "I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined. I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned." These are the beginning lyrics of Natasha Bedingfield's song, "Unwritten." Further on she writes, "I break tradition, sometimes my tries are outside the lines." ...... "Today is where your book begins. The rest is still unwritten."
Bedingfield's lyrics are prose poetry-like Bruce Springfield's, like Billy Joel's. Instinctively, we respond to it. They engage the language of our culture in its purest form, instead of the latest catchphrases repeated ad nauseam.
There's No Business Like Your Business
French may still be considered the language of diplomacy. But English is the language of Business.
For entrepreneurs who follow the bouncing DOW, there are many ways to make your business profitable. I wish I knew some of them. Here's what I do know. You must be able to write a cogent letter using English grammar, and never be guilty of the seven deadly sins.
The Seven Deadly Sins
The producers are in their weekly board meeting.
The writers had to leave their strike signs at the door. They're angry about not being there for the vote.
The Giants will lose the Super Bowl.
Brady's been on the loose for a week.
"Lighting affects everything light falls upon. How you see what you see; How you feel about it; How you hear what you are hearing. Replace the 'a' with an 'e' and you get lighting effects!"
The hurricane won't affect their departure.
We will effect several changes in curriculum.
Your rights are about to be challenged.
You're right about the new rules.
Different than-different from
This sign is different from the one at the main gate.
This sign is better than the one at the main gate.
I got dizzy and had to lie down. He, she, they had to lie down.
Just lay those books over there.
Lay the blanket on the bed.
Would have. In spoken American English "of" is often incorrectly used in place of "have."
Never use would of, could of, should of in writing.
I could have installed the modem by myself.
I would have sent you an invitation, but you were out of town.
Getting To The Point, Dot, Period, Full-Stop
Journalist grammarian James J. Kilpatrick wrote an entire column on the dot.
"Nothing benefits a sentence quite so much as the early ending of it."
We know when a sentence is too long. Nor does sprinkling a bevy of commas diminish its windiness. The key is to not fall in love with our words. Cut through the dross and get to the point. In a query letter to an editor, in a business letter, our words are often all we have to introduce ourselves and what we're selling. When all else fails let clarity be your brand.

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