... to a new low,” said Samuel Goldwyn (no not this year but many years ago.)
Cliches are annoyingly catchy, yet that’s their power. Re-work a familiar phrase and you can capture attention by catching people off-guard. Evoke smiles as you reinforce your message or business’ main benefit.
1. Best suite in the house
(in an ad for a condominium).
2. He learned it the soft way
(referring to a legendary frozen custard entrepreneur).
3. Familiarity breeds unkempt, which is exactly what happens when our grammatical slips are showing
(in an article about how poor writing gives us a bad image).
4. Art-to-art talk
(in an article about two artists meeting to share ideas).
See Sam Horn’s method for adapting a cliché to create a fresh slogan, motto or book title.
Also consider altering over-used words. For ideas, see Banished Words, the annual list of “worn-out, misused, and generally worthless words and expressions culled from nominations by the folks at Lake Superior State University.
Then peruse the fascinating book, Weasel Words: The Dictionary of American Doublespeak. Don Hausrath and Paul Wasserman describe the “distortions, obfuscations, and marketplace flim-flam” that are so irritatingly insincere. (A tax increase becomes "revenue enhancement.") While politicians, CEOs, military leaders and (gulp) yes even journalists use weasel words to say nothing, we can piggyback on their familiarity to create memorable new meaning.
Conversely, if you want to avoid using worn-out phrases in your writing, paste your passage into S. Morgan Friedman’s Cliché Finder. Click on "Find clichés." Your cliché, if any, will be highlighted. On a roll? See Be Remembered. Be Brief.