Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writing Prompt & Word Choice: Importance of avoiding clichés

I cannot tell you how many students use the word “priceless” in their papers. I like to be accepting and patient, but this is a word that I can’t stand. Can’t. Stand.

Before the infamous Mastercard credit card commercial, perhaps calling something “priceless” was unique and interesting. In our commercial, money-driven society, Americans like the idea of having something that is so expensive that a price-tag can’t be put on it.

At this point, however, we are used to the term “priceless.” Metaphors or similes that begin as fresh and surprising often become overused clichés. This is what has happened to the tiresome term “priceless.”

While I believe deeply that there should be few rules in the arts (if we all followed the same rules, how could we create something new?) I’d like to propose a rule: Never use the word “priceless” to describe a person, place or event. If you did in the past, fine. I know you can do better in the future.

To help clarify any rule, it is important to give alternatives. For today’s writing prompt, think about another way to describe something that indeed seems to be “priceless.” For example, a baby’s smile, sunset or love at first sight. It can be a particular challenge to describe something both so universal and so individual.

I hope you’ll share your writing below in the Comments section.

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