Writing cliches to avoid this holiday season
“’Tis the Season” tops my list of holiday cliches like a star atop a Christmas tree. But instead of a classy, elegant star, it’s one of those garish, blinking stars that leaves you longing for an angel or one of those pointy ornaments or a Yoda tree topper. Anything else, really.
That is to say, don’t use “’Tis the Season” for any reason in your holiday coverage. It’s a slippery slope, just like the one we used to sled down before global warming. Once you allow it to sneak into a lead or a headline, you’ll find cliches popping up everywhere, especially during the holidays. These phrases are so tempting.
In my last newsroom, the copy desk had a list of banned phrases. Once you see “’Tis the Season” in a headline every year for a couple of decades, it loses its luster. And we can do better for our readers.
Here are some other seasonal cliches that are as worn as that tree skirt I keep meaning to replace:
- White stuff – snow has so much more potential.
- Jack Frost nipping at anything.
- Do you want to build a snowman? Please, no.
- The Grinch who stole anything.
- Anything having to do with Scrooge (including “God bless us, everyone” and “Bah, humbug”), unless it’s a calendar listing for the play.
- Let it snow, deck the halls, I’m dreaming of (anything), and other carols.
- Yes, Virginia. Again, no.
- Any variation of “12 Days of Christmas.”
- Ringing in the new year.
*Hint: If the phrase is a Grumpy Cat meme, you know it doesn’t belong in your newspaper or on your website.
When you force yourself to avoid cliches in your writing, you open your mind to true creativity and to clarity and precision of language. Cliche-free prose is a wise man approved gift your readers will appreciate this holiday season.