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MONDAY, JULY 04, 2011
 
There are a few clichés that make me cringe when I read them in newspapers. To show how common these clichés are, most of my references are from today's newspapers.

1)"May or may not." There's no other outcome to be considered other than those two results. You might as well say "My guess is that it's either possible or impossible" because it's just as useless as an analysis. Except "may or may not" is even worse because "may" itself is not an absolute term. The word 'may' already implies that it 'may not.' So when the Washington Post wrote today about "a story that may or may not pan out" they could have just said it "may pan out"and not waste three extra words on "or may not." 1

2) "Fair enough." This isn't a bad expression when used appropriately. For example, if you just got slapped in the face by a stranger you kissed you can shrug it off with a "fair enough." But using it in an article is annoying. That's because the term, much like a stranger's kiss, doesn't really mean anything. It's not as if the journalist was measuring the amount of 'fairness' until they got enough of it and decided to call it a day. In an article your readers know it just means: "I will accept what you have said, barely, just to end the debate." Yet, Forbes still used it today. 2

3) "Lessons will be learned." The least common used cliché on my list but still very pointless and annoying. I frequently come across it when news pieces talk about some unprecedented adventure their subject is embarking on. I find that it's a sign of the journalist's lack of self-confidence in providing a "heart-felt story" (another cliché I hate) without any moral to conclude with. So, like the Sudbury Star today, they opt to just promise that a lesson will be arriving shortly and that it will be learnt. 3

4)"To this day." As in "to this day we haven't found a cure for cancer."Was the journalist afraid I didn't read the paper this morning before giving me a report? It's pretty obvious the news is relevant to this day, because if it weren't it's not really "news." Could you imagine if people started using this expression in daily conversation? "Hey, Jim how's your life?" "Well Bill, to this very second it's alright. I can't speak about the future though, Jim, I'm not a psychic and it would hurt my journalistic credibility if I were to make predictions about the unknown."4

5)"Ironically.." As in: Statement X. Ironically, statement not-X! This is not about the misuse of irony because I'm more annoyed by people who feel the need to point out the misuse of irony more than those who actually misuse it. Those who misuse it made a simple mistake that a dictionary can fix but those who point it out gloat like they just found Waldo... and no dictionary can cure unfounded pride. No, I actually hate when it's used correctly. I hate when journalists use this term because I know it will be followed up an expectation for me to laugh; As if all irony leads to humour, these writers think that making note that an unexpected outcome occurred is witty. KXMB probably thought this was a witty line today: "Bill Guy was governor of North Dakota at the time of the blizzard in early March. Ironically, he was in Arizona at the time." It doesn't matter whether they used 'ironically' correctly, they were using this term to make a dumb joke. You can tell the journalist was smirking to himself while writing that line, thinking that they were being witty. "Ironically," I get sad when they do this. 5

6)"Who knows" when it refers to another unknown. E.g., "Who knows what the world will look like if we don't make these changes?" Even though it's a rhetorical question.. who know what the world would like if we do make the changes?6

7)"Only the future can tell." Whenever I read this I always want to add "Because the past, definitely can't." Another variant of this is: "Time will tell." Journalists might as well say: "I can only finish this report if I had a time-machine." 7

8)"Incredibly convincing." So it's unbelievable how believable it is?8


9) "In regards to." O' CNN. Whether you're a grammar-nazi or not, this term is incorrect. I don't know what to make of pluralizing the "s" in regard. It's one of those things we should all keep in mind not to do. Can you say "in respects to"? Then you can't say "in regards to" either. 9

10)"Plethora" Not really a cliché, but this word is so misused in journalism I had to put it up. It seems as though many journalists think this word mean "a hell of a lot" but it doesn't. It means "too much;" So much that you actually don't want it. So when the Calgary Herald wrote today that a campaign that helps the homeless has "An estimated $8,000 in cash plus a plethora of in-kind donations," they are saying that the homeless have too much money. 10


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