One of the biggest issues I have with journalism and writing these days are what I call ‘stock phrases’
My friend Simon Torkington (‘tvscriptwriter’ on WordPress) has written about such things before, but I know he’d appreciate me banging on about it again.
Stock phrases are the things people write without even thinking. Phrases, words, descriptions which have been used a thousand times before, and so people seem to think the thousand-and-first time won’t matter.
News flash: it DOES matter.
What am I talking about exactly? Here is just a small, small sample…
- Why is tension always ‘palpable’?
- Have you noticed when it rains a lot how ‘roads turn into rivers’?
- Your fellow countrymen? Erm, that’d just be your countrymen.
- Have you ever really heard a ‘gunshot ring out’? I’d say it did more than ring!
- Wow that debate is really ‘raging’ isn’t it…
- ‘But for the families, nothing will bring their loved ones back’… yep, that’s because they died in a massive hurricane/flood/plane crash.
- People always seem to ‘flee their homes’ in times of trouble. That MAY well be true, but they may have also calmly walked out of their house.
Do you see where I’m coming from? These are the type of stock phrases we hear ad nauseum, particularly in television news. And why? Because writers simply default to them without thinking.
My advice, for what it’s worth? Write like you talk. Within reason of course, but broadly speaking just try to write like a normal person.
And if you DO actually use those sorts of phrases when you speak?… well, that’s beyond my brief I’m afraid!