On the TV news, a headline on the screen said, “Job growth grinds to a halt.” Why do so many things end by “grinding to a halt”? Or when they end suddenly, they always come to a “screeching halt.”
In their impulse to be colorful, writers often reach for familiar phrases that are, well, too familiar. They are clichés, phrases that originally were effective because they encapsulated a complicated idea or situation in a few words. But no longer. Avoiding them will freshen your writing, will make you sound more original, and will spare the reader the boredom.
Win-win, uphill battle, tough sledding, gearing up, picking up steam, getting back on track, cutting-edge, team effort, back to basics, and worst nightmare are but a few of the trite phrases that pervade business communication.
It is difficult to avoid cliches entirely, because we have many familiar expressions that might be old but they capture our meaning precisely in certain situations. And using one occasionally is fine. But you can make readers wince when you use two or three in one paragraph because they strain for effect.
Your writing sounds more authentic, more like the real you, when you resist the temptation to use phrases that have outgrown their usefulness. Former AP Editor Jack Cappon once said these phrases have been worked to death but no one wants to give them a proper burial.