Banning cliches could make for extremely short columns

October 20, 2013 

I try to follow five simple rules while writing.

1. Write about what you know. If you don't know, learn. Then write.

2. Never write when you are angry or sad. Or really hungry.

3. Avoid cliches. That's a challenge when you're writing about sports. In hockey, there's putting the biscuit in the basket. In basketball, scoring a basket can be twittling the twine. Baseball has ducks on the pond and can of corn. A winning team flat out came to play with plenty of intestinal fortitude.

4. Read a lot. The best way to write well is to read good writing often.

5. Keep it simple. If you have to look up a word's meaning or spelling in a dictionary, then don't say or write it. Find a simpler word.

One of my biggest pet peeves about writing is the overuse of useless words. In today's world of talk radio/TV, blogs and social media, you can get tired of overused words and phrases in a big hurry.

Big hurry. That's one there. I won't use it again.

Pet peeves. That's another. I have pet dogs.

Since the mid-1970s, the wordsmiths at small Lake Superior State University in Minnesota have submitted to the world an annual "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness."

I've always stayed in touch with the annual, tongue-in-cheek list because it hits close to home.

Tongue-in-cheek. That's another. Hard to talk clearly when you do it.

Hits close to home. Another one. Sorry.

I've already made a pledge not to write or say any of the words or phrases on the 2013 "banned" list: fiscal cliff, kick the can down the road, double down, job creation, YOLO (you only live once), spoiler alert, bucket list, trending, superfood, boneless wings and guru.

I've already replaced bucket list and written about my annual "chuck it list" -- all the things I hope to never do again before I kick the bucket.

Kick the bucket. That's another one. Promise. Never again.

Boneless chicken wings. They're really just chicken pieces or nuggets, right?

YOLO. Reminds me to renew my membership in NMRSAP -- No More Really Stupid Acronyms, Please.

It was easy to stop using the 2012 list, which included baby bump, shared sacrifice, occupy, blowback, man cave, The New Normal, pet parent, trickeration, ginormous and thank you in advance.

2011's banned words and phrases mostly related to technology, including viral, epic and Facebook/Google as verbs. Others to make it two years ago: wow factor, a-ha moments, BFFs, I'm just sayin', man up and Mama Grizzlies (right-wing female politicians)

The college's first list of overused words in 1976 included at this point in time, meaningful and macho. At this point in time, 37 years later, I still use the word macho occasionally but not in reference to myself.

1982 was a great year for underdogs. I graduated from college and the Cardinals won the World Series. The most overused words then were classic, world-class, revenue enhancement and hot water heater. (Why does hot water need to be heated?)

My turn. Here's my list of overused, useless words and phrases that have fallen through the cracks that I'd like to see written and said a lot less:

Fallen through the cracks. You forgot about it. Don't blame the cracks.

110 percent. That means he tries extra hard because his 100 percent is just not good enough.

Low hanging fruit. Grab the easy stuff first. Might be considered an insult to us vertically challenged folks who can't reach the high stuff without a stool.

Lean and mean. I prefer chubby and shy.

Synergy. If you hear this word in the workplace, you had better start gathering empty boxes.

It's that time of year again. Of course it is. I have a calendar.

Consistently inconsistent. It's a perfectly imperfect, pretty ugly but awfully good description.

Reality TV. There's absolutely nothing realistic about it, really.

At the end of the day. When all is said and done, we'll do it this way.

Been-there-done-that. Sigh. Bad idea. I've been here way too long.

Big picture. No place for small minds.

Heavy lifting. Usually said or written by lightweights.

Take that off-line. It's irrelevant to the group. You two decide. Leave the rest of us alone.

Peel the onion. Two bad things can happen: It either makes you cry or gives you bad breath. Or both.

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