Thursday, August 16, 2007

A very short guide to Media Cliches

Why do we have so many clichés and buzzwords running amuck among our daily communication?

Unintentional or otherwise, clichés can drown the message (another cliché, see how bad things are?)

Seth Godin explains thus:
(Cliches/buzzwords) exist for one reason: to hide. By obfuscating, lying, confusing or just plain avoiding the issue, business people can avoid communicating. Do you have the guts to stop using cliches?

I searched Google news for ‘revolution’ and found more than 100 results from articles posted within past 2 hours.

Media clichés are an old problem. This article is from 1995 and is titled, “Downpour Of Media Cliches Threatens To Flood Nation”

Prorev has analyzed how some ‘top cliches’ of r time have fared on Google over a three-month period.

According to Prorev, the Top 20 phrase clichés are:
Real time - 359 million
Prior to - 341 million
In terms of - 333 million
Next generation - 224 million
Best practices - 191 million
State of the art - 168 million
In accordance with - 159 million
All new - 110 million UP 42 MILLION
World class - 110 million
Cutting edge - 95 million
Check it out - 90 million
Support services - 87 million
Sustainable development 80 million
Mission statement - 72 million
No problem - 67 million
Bottom line - 67 million
On the ground - 48 million
Civil society - 47 million
Period of time - 47 million
Strategic planning [plan] 37 million

Some of my other favorites from what is a long and interesting list.
The fact is
Welcome your feedback
Reality check
As a matter of fact
Tipping point
Having said that
Silver bullet
Make no mistake
Now more than ever
Window of opportunity
The rest is history
Sooner rather than later
Like, you know
No doubt in my mind
Resident expert
End of the world as we know it
Money shot
Recent studies have shown
New normal
Breaking down silos

How many times have we seen these phrases being used all over the blogosphere? (damn, a cliché, again)

Tom Mangan' tracks News Media Cliches on almost daily basis.

Here is Abe Rosenberg’s list of TV news clichés.
Abe on another word we use quite liberally:
Reportedly - Do you know anyone, anywhere on the planet, who uses “reportedly” in normal conversation? If someone is reporting something, say so.

From Gawker’s list of blog clichés:

• Best. [ultimate thing or experience.] Ever/Evar.
• [undesirable counter-example], not so much.
• FTW, O RLY, lol, FTL, OMG, FWIW, btw, PWND, ROTFL, etc.
• [negative experience, situation, or description]; I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.
• [purposefully non-ghetto statement], yo.
• [undesirable conclusion]. Oy.
• [amazed paraphrase of opposing position]. Seriously? Seriously?
• What's next? [outlandish scenario]?
• I'm looking at you, [example of complaint].
• Um, [condescension]?
• [Argument], wait for it, [rhetorical flourish].
• [Undesirable experience] made my [sensory organ] bleed.
• [adjective]-y goodness
• [any word]-gasm
• [x] is the new [y].

From The Guardian, this is a link to a Pdf document containing clichés often found in British Media.

Factiva did the research and here are the toppers from the Factiva Cliché Index:
1. "at the end of the day"
(This phrase is in many people’s top clichés list. A Bollywood Film producer, replying to charges of copying from Hollywood, used this phrase so many times during a short TV interview that I could hear the reporter getting a tinkle on the side)
2. "in the red"
3. "in the black"
4. "level playing field"
5. "time and again"
6. "wealth of experience"

Curiously, most of these are used by the Financial Press.

I think there are two kind of media clichés:
1. Terminology Cliches, which fade away with time – remember “the information superhighway”?
2. The Language clichés – phrases such as “actually”, “basically”, “at the end of the day” and so on.

An interesting discussion on Media Clichés goes on here.

Before we forget the art of putting our message across, time to look at George Orwell's advice on English Language:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Related links
The Plain English Campaign

Complete List of Banished Words at Lake Superior University

The Book of Clichés

On a side note, Seth Godin has started an Encyclopedia of Business Cliches on Squidoo

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