Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Don’t Be Trivial About Cliches

Currently my daughter Amy is preoccupied with an idea of how to get into German summer camp next year. She has been studying German for 3 years now, and, well, this winter she is going to sign up for a special language exam in Washington, D.C. The preparations began yet in August - and yes, Amy actually does make me sit with her and help her go through the countless tasks and exercises.

Why do I even write about it here? Well, the thing is that in order to pass her exam (which is called TestDAF, by the way), Amy doesn’t have to use especially complicated grammar or to have extremely wide vocabulary. What matters the most - she needs to use specific cliches. If one uses them, it means that the biggest part of the work is done.

And while my daughter learns her cliches by rote, I would like to muse about the role of cliches in life of a regular academic writer. Tutors and professors in literature as well as in English class tend to prohibit their students the use of cliches (meaning both banal words, such as “therefore”, “however”, and sentences, such as “everyday life”, “pros and cons”, “calm before the storm” and etc.). That is why students, being our clients, forbid us the use of cliches as well. And that is why, in turn, we often do like this, when accomplishing our writing orders:

Is it a right thing, to exclude cliches from your writing completely? I think, it depends. If you are writing a literary essay or a paper for English class, then yes, you should watch out and avoid banal sayings. But if you are working on lab report, thesis paper or essay in a scientific subject, you can make your life easier and use cliches. Just don’t go over the edge.