Dreary Phrases

Art, Language by Adam on 2009-04-19 01:10

You probably know what it means to “live vicarously through” someone. But do you know what “vicarously” means by itself?

You might know what it means to refer to something’s “consitutent parts.” But do you know what “constituent” (as an adjective) means by itself?

You may know what it means to say “do (X) with impunity.” But do you know what “impunity” means by itself?

You’ve probably said that something is “on the verge” of something else in the past. But do you know what a “verge” is?

I find it amusing that writers employ such phrases so often, without even knowing what the words mean.

On Writing Well calls these “dreary phrases”. They are worn out, with no impact, no fresh meaning. Writers reach for them because they are convenient:

“…what makes the story so tired is the writer’s failure to reach for anything but the nearest cliche. […] These dreary phrases constitute writing at its most banal. We know just what to expect. No surprise awaits us in the form of an unusual word, an oblique look. […]

The race in writing is not to the swift but to the original.”

One comment per 'Dreary Phrases'

  1. Meredith says:

    As long as communication is occurring, what does it matter which words we use or how many?

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