Cliches: Avoid ’em like the plague

A correspondent writes …

David Weston of Oxford noted in a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, 24.5.15:

SIR – Many media outlets seem to have just two new units of measurement: football pitches (which are variable in size) and Wembley Stadiums.
Perhaps I’m too traditional but I find acres, or hectares, easier to understand.

The following week, the Sun Tel published the following responses:

from Charles Dobson, Chester:

SIR – David Weston omits to mention one unit of scale regularly used by the media: the size of Wales.

And from T Martin Johnson of Pathhead, Midlothian:

SIR – We mustn’t forget another popular unit, of volume rather than area: the Olympic-size swimming pool.

Cliches are such a part of journalism, they will be commonly written in by newsdesk or sub-editors if the reporter has forgotten to include them. The journalists need to be reminded, occasionally, that the readers may sometimes respond to them by kicking the paper around the room, rather than being grateful for the rule that says everything must be explained to them in language they will understand.cliche-WEB-3

We could quote examples all day, but for now, the Telegraph correspondence prompts us to go into the vaults for a nice skewering of picture-desk cliches, from the Independent On Sunday’s magazine on 23.6.13. John Rentoul started with his own nomination for a Banned list and added in some suggestions from readers …

1. Wedding cake decorations for reports and features about gay marriage
2. Poignant empty swings for stories suggesting that the authorities have failed children – nominated by Callum May.
3. Stretch of police incident tape for any article about crime – Ben Knightscliche-WEB-4
4. The flames from gas-cooker rings for rising energy prices – Terry Stiastny
5. Faceless greebo lights a gigantic bifta, all but hands and lips obscured, for any story about drugs – Ed Pemberton
6. The statue on the Old Bailey roof for anything to do with the law or justice – Chris Bartlettcliche-WEB
7. Pictures of people from the neck down for stories about obesity.
8. A woman with her head in her hands for all mental-health stories – Becca Reilly-Cooper
9. Precarious stack of coins for personal finance stories – Tom Powdrillcliche-WEB-2
10. Aerial montage of suburbia for TV reports on property markets. Used, obviously, because we don’t know what houses look like – “Bubblejet”

The above notes are from Hack4hire, who blogs at:


Categories: newsroom

Tagged as: ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s