Feature Writers: Avoid Stale Language

Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality FeaturesWhen writers resort to using stale expressions and words, that signals that they are getting lazy.

Below are some stale expressions that I’ve run across in newspapers and magazines, that have no place in writing:

1) better half

2) better late than never

3) chip off the old block

4)  easier said than done

5)  hard as a rock

6) ignorance is bliss

7) sly as a fox

8) wine, women, and song

9) few and far between

10) clear as a bell

Try to create descriptions that aren’t overworked. Make up your own. One cliche may be effective to kick off your piece, but beyond that, your writing sounds trite and unimaginative. I know that sports writers tend to use a lot of  common expressions, but I would avoid them. You don’t want to be known as a writer who has a predictably  uninteresting style.

Further, in feature articles, I often run across adjectives that have become too common. Read these offenders below:

1) dynamic

2) outstanding

3) beautiful

4) excellent

5) tough

In the above examples, just ask yourself how is someone outstanding, beautiful, and dynamic, and be more specific.

Editors see hackneyed language  frequently and get tired of it. Without intellectualizing, state something simply, but descriptively. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort. More importantly, you’ll be respected and be assigned more freelance work. Read my book, Beginners’ Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features for more ideas.

Copyright 2012 by Charlotte Digregorio.

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About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. I am also the author of five non-fiction books: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; and Your Original Personal Ad. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I have signed books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores. I was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry. I have won thirty-three poetry awards. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I am an internationally-published haiku, senryu, tanka, kyoka, haibun, free verse, acrostic, cinquain, etheree, and sestina poet. My poetry has been translated into six languages, and I have done poetry readings at a variety of bookstores, libraries, art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. My poetry has been displayed at supermarkets, art galleries, libraries, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I've been interviewed on cable television about my poetry. I also hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I was also self-employed as a communications/public relations/marketing consultant with 111 clients in 16 states. In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give special lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and to those at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and to libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America. Currently, I am Second Vice President of the Haiku Society.
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10 Responses to Feature Writers: Avoid Stale Language

  1. Merrill Ann Gonzales says:

    Hi, Charlotte, Two more words that are overworked, I think: Wonderful…. Amazing….
    We certainly are bombarded by many wonders in this world, especially with the internet bringing everything so clearly before us… Sometimes I try to think to say “why” is something wonderful…
    or “how” is something beautiful … or “when” did I become aware something was amazing.

    • Good points, Merrill. I hope you are doing well and enjoying spring weather that inspires you in art and poetry. It’s been like summer here for a while now. I don’t even remember winter. It was pretty mild.

      • snowbirdpress says:

        Charlotte, Someone should around here should keep a calendar of odd weather. It’s expecte to be 50-60 degrees tomorrow but tomorrow night they are talking snow flurries! We’ve had two killing frosts in the last week! And just a week ago it was in the 60’s and 70’s. I had planned to plant peas Friday and Saturday but with these snow flurries and freezing temps I’m beginning to think I’d better wait till next month. I keep thinking of Mary Oliver as I’m watching all this and the way she took all these phenomena into her writing.

      • Sorry to hear the weather is so strange in your neck of the woods. I think it’s good writing weather. Stay inside and write, Merrill! Or maybe the cold will inspire some winter scenes for your art. I’m re-reading back issues of Modern Haiku, whenever I get a few moments late at night. I always enjoy reading your poetry!

  2. I would add the following words:

    Classic
    Awesome
    Genius

  3. snowbirdpress says:

    Hi, Charlotte, The weather has turned absolutely gorgeous. But I’ve been stuck inside… taking spring cleaning to a whole new level. My back does not appreciate such movements though and has been complaining a bit. I’ve been scanning 30 years of drawings into my computer. There’s a box or two around here of drawings I can’t find…probably in the hundreds of files I have to go through yet. I’m also trying to organize back issues of journals…like you, I find old issues of Modern Haiku to be a gold mine of information, inspiration, adventure and delight…not to mention visiting so many great friends.

    • You’re busy, busy. I bet I’m not as productive as you. I haven’t written any haiku in so very long. I am feeling sad and guilty about it. You are always learning, and you don’t stop creating, either. Hope to meet you before long, Merrill.

      • snowbirdpress says:

        Hi, Charlotte, I expect to be able to go to The Haiku Circle in Massachuessetts on June 9th. In the mean time I’ve been just clearing out space here. At the moment everything is in a state of chaos. Not much production here, although I find I’ve been writing haiku off and on without even being aware of it. Coming home from shopping the other day the loud noises of the workmen here contrasted so greatly with the drought brook that flowed silently under the road. But I’m hoping to get this place ready so that I can really be productive once I get through it all.
        I hopw you’ve had a good spring. So many changes going on in our lives lately…it pays to be open to new things every day.

      • I don’t think I’ve stopped to smell the flowers lately . . .

        Best wishes, Merrill, for continued artistic success!

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