Thursday 16 June 2011

Journalistic Clichés

acrimonious, amicable Only applied to divorces, which are always either one or the other.
bagpipes “skirl”
used as a verb

battle with cancer
People don’t die of cancer, they lose their battle with it, don’t suffer it but fight it, don’t recover from it but beat it.


bitter struggle, conflict, dispute etc.
boasts Please don’t use when you just mean “has”.
bolster as a verb. What's wrong with "support"? And when did you last see a bolster?

Writers are fond of "brutal", and like applying it to things that can't be brutal, like "the brutal trajectory of the porn industry". I think this writer meant "unstoppable spread". (Trajectories go up and then down again.)

Try "growing".
bustling Try “busy”.

came for happened, occurred, took place, followed, fell, was effected/done/carried out, coincided with. “Her murder comes after the deaths of several journalists…” Guardian July 17, 2007 How about “Her murder follows the deaths…”? Writers may be trying to avoid the passive, but this is much worse.


combat for fight, oppose, counter
comes after, in the wake of follows

cosset, pamper, indulge, decadence Inseparable from articles about massage, spas or beauty treatments.

draw for prompt, evoke etc
dry facts are always dry, especially in the education debate - see cram, regurgitate etc
for break out, happen, occur
explode for increase (verb)
explosion for increase (noun)

fan flames
for exacerbate
forge for create, give rise to, form
fuel a surge and other inappropriate things

fuelled for impelled, built up, constructed, powered, encouraged, provoked, driven, incited, powered, prompted, facilitated, made possible, instigated, contributed to, promoted, advanced, exacerbated, aggravated, worsened

garner for gain
girding for preparing
good-humoured to describe behaviour of protesters and police
head off for avert, fend off, stave off, ward off, preclude

heart-wrenching has replaced "heart-rending", because nobody knows what "rending" means any more. Didn't Pontius Pilate "rend his garments", leaving a rent?

hurdle for problem, obstacle, barrier
iconic of buildings, means BIG

ignite for set off, cause, prompt etc. It's only used for starting riots, not for setting light to anything. If a riot is “ignited”, rioters will “torch” cars and buildings.

industrial wasteland
applied to any collection of industrial buildings which may be “hives of activity” and “bustling” with actual industry. But anything that isn’t residential or natural is a “wasteland”.

isolated beauty spot
The place where the body is found.

for tilt, disturb

jump for increase, rise

key for core

kick start
for start, prompt, cause – it implies that all you have to do is kick the machine and then it’ll run by itself.

for amount/s

lull into a sense of false security Why not soothed, stupefied, tranquillised, sedated?

mane If a woman has grey hair, it's a "mane"

mired in for involved in, embroiled in, caught up in, entangled in, stuck in etc

mobs always bay, while the upper classes bray
is headlinese for consider

No one can mention them without using the word wimple. Most nuns wear ordinary clothes, and have done since the 70s.

ordeal kidnap victims always suffer an ordeal
of grief (but upsurge of protest)
plummet for fall
pummel (what waves do to coasts)

reeling everybody reels far too often (still reeling from the shock of…).
relentless, remorseless
progress etc Try "unstoppable", and avoid the pathetic fallacy.

riven for split, divided

as in “last year saw an increase in X”, or "Germany has seen". Try “last year X increased”, Germany has experienced or witnessed (or X took place in Germany).

for severely

shrink for lessen, fall

sit for lie, stand "The crypt which sat (and still sits today) beneath the 11th century church." Which lay, and which still exists? The silliest example I ever read was "IBM sits firmly in all three camps".

sit well with
for agree with, appeal to, go down well with, find acceptance with
spark for start, cause, prompt, result in, lead to, provoke, set off
spat for row

spawn for cause, give rise to, result in, lead to, generate

spry, sprightly as applied to older men (they're also dapper)
spur for prompt, encourage)
sun beats down

for ethnic hatred or violence (inflaming tensions New Scientist 2009)
the bulk of for most

Things are called into question, but thrown into disarray.
for cause etc (see spark)
tumult for trouble

tumultuous for potentially violent, troubled, eventful

typically for usually

for emphasize, highlight, reveal, reflect

unravel lives always unravel
restraint is always “urged”
for thriving

wedded to a point of view

weigh for consider
wrenching for disturbing

You don’t care a jot, if asked if you’re worried you say "Not one whit", there is never the slightest whiff of scandal, and you go a tad off course. Milk? Just a dash!

More clichés here.

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