When you’re writing for yourself, your boss or your client, trying to get them quoted in the news, are you giving in and just using tired, old cliches because it’s easier? Or are you trying to come up with some new way of saying something that’s clever and quotable and — gasp! — original?
Out of nowhere yesterday on Twitter, Sara Metz (@Sara_Metz) said she thought the word “boondoggle” should be retired from around the state Capitol in Michigan for a while. Jessi Wortley (@minij) quickly agreed — and they should know since they both work in that domed home of cliches. Their conversation led to comments from me and others about having a list of words banned from politicians’ mouths.
I made a few suggestions on Twitter and Facebook and found out I’m not alone. It appears there is quite a bit of support for some originality when it comes to politicians and corporate leaders.
I’ve compiled the list below and welcome your additions. But before we get there, let me show you why being original matters.
In a random act of weirdness and unbeknown to me, I was being quoted yesterday in a Grand Rapids Press columnist’s work about Michigan’s teacher strike law, which people are still trying to fix several years after a former boss of mine tried doing something about it and couldn’t. These days, I’m not involved with anything in the Legislature even remotely connected to the teacher strike law, so the Google News alert really threw me.
Apparently, the reporter couldn’t find a better way to describe the problem than with the quote I gave him back in 2006 while I was working for the Michigan Senate majority leader. The reporter said he’d spoken to both state representatives currently working on the issue. But he pulled up a three-year-old quote from me instead of giving the ink to them. When I was with the Senate, I got a reputation for saying funny or pointed things that hit home with reporters and, occasionally, riled people up. But it’s because I was willing to take a chance and be original.
You should try it some time. Who knows, three years later, the quote you create may get recycled. And even if it doesn’t, it sure beats using a word or phrase that makes people roll their eyes and want to recycle you. Words and phrases like the ones below, courtesy of me, my friends and colleagues on Twitter and Facebook:
- “Everything is on the table.”
- “Hurting/Protecting/Affecting/Caring for the most vulnerable citizens…”
- “We’ve already cut the budget to the bone.”
- “Take the initiative…”
- “We have to live within our means.”
- revenue enhancement
- hold harmless
- give some teeth to
- playing politics
- roll up our sleeves
What’s missing? What’s on your eye-rolling list of government and corporate cliches that should be banned?
(Image courtesy of Fenestra, Inc.)