Editor spontaneously combusts (Rene Cappon’s big list of cliches)

March 12, 2011

One of the books I brought with me to Bangalore is Rene Cappon’s “The Associated Press Guide to News Writing.” This is far from a dry journalism tome. It makes me think more of Lou Reed’s funny-angry monologues on his “Take No Prisoners” live album. Cappon hectors, pillories and scorns from a high throne the banalities and crimes of news writing. Every journalist who reads it will find some offense to Cappon that he or she has committed at some time. After railing about cliches and bad metaphors and similar problems, he abandons theĀ  narrative format and offers a “list of words to swear at.” We have used plenty of these here. I in particular see a few that I use. There are more that we like in our business reporting, and I’ll highlight them on this blog. Meanwhile, here’s Rene:

“These cliches are among the dreariest in captivity, in one editor’s opinion anyway. The list is not exhaustive. You may or may not find your favorite here.”

  • armed to the teeth
  • banker’s hours
  • battle royal
  • beat a hasty retreat
  • beauty and the beast
  • bewildering variety
  • beyond the shadow of a doubt
  • bite the dust
  • blazing inferno
  • blessed event
  • blessing in disguise
  • blissful ignorance
  • bull in a china shop
  • burn one’s bridges
  • burn the midnight oil
  • burning issue
  • bury the hatchet
  • calm before the storm
  • cherished belief
  • clear the decks
  • club-wielding police
  • colorful scene
  • conspicuous by its absence
  • coveted award
  • crack troops
  • curvaceous blonde
  • dramatic new move
  • dread disease
  • dream come true
  • drop in the bucket
  • fame and fortune
  • feast or famine
  • fickle fortune
  • gentle hint
  • glaring omission
  • glutton for punishment
  • gory details
  • grief-stricken
  • Grim Reaper
  • hammer out (an agreement)
  • hand in glove
  • happy couple
  • head over heels in love
  • heart of gold
  • heavily armed troops
  • hook, line and sinker
  • iron out (problems)
  • intensive investigation
  • Lady Luck
  • lash out
  • last but not least
  • last-ditch stand
  • leaps and bounds
  • leave no stone unturned
  • light at the end of the tunnel
  • lightning speed
  • limp into port
  • lock, stock and barrel
  • long arm of the law
  • man in the street
  • marvels of science
  • matrimonial bliss
  • meager pension
  • miraculous escape
  • Mother Nature
  • move into high gear
  • never a dull moment
  • Old Man Winter
  • paint a grim picture
  • pay the supremeĀ  penalty
  • picture of health
  • pillar of society
  • pinpoint the cause
  • police dragnet
  • pool of blood
  • posh resort
  • powder keg
  • pre-dawn darkness
  • prestigious law firm
  • proud heritage
  • proud parents
  • pursuit of excellence
  • radiant bride
  • red faces, red-faced
  • reins of government
  • rushed to the scene
  • scantily clad
  • scintilla of evidence
  • scurried to shelter
  • selling like hotcakes
  • spearheading the campaign
  • spirited debate
  • spotlessly clean
  • sprawling base, facility
  • spreading like wildfire
  • steaming jungle
  • stick out like a sore thumb
  • storm of protest
  • stranger than fiction
  • supreme sacrifice
  • surprise move
  • sweep under the rug
  • sweet harmony
  • sweetness and light
  • tempest in a teapot
  • tender mercies
  • terror-stricken
  • tip of the iceberg
  • tower of strength
  • trail of death and destruction
  • true colors
  • vanish in thin air
  • walking encyclopedia
  • wealth of information
  • whirlwind campaign
  • wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole

Just in case that wasn’t enough, Cappon wraps up with “doubleheaders” –

  • beck and call
  • betwixt and between
  • bits and pieces
  • blunt and brutal
  • bound and determined
  • clear and simple
  • confused and bewildered
  • disgraced and dishonored
  • each and every
  • fair and just
  • few and far between
  • nervous and distraught
  • nook and cranny
  • pick and choose
  • ready and willing
  • right and proper
  • safe and sound
  • shy and withdrawn
  • smooth and silky
  • various and sundry

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