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Aug 28 / King Kaufman

Be a cliche killer: Help B/R blacklist overused phrases

Clichés do to your writing what giant piles of lettuce and sprouts do to your sandwich: They make it clear the creation process involves filling up space with minimal effort rather than trying to create something unique and wonderful.

We need to get rid of clichés on Bleacher Report, and you can help by identifying the worst of them. We’re building a cliché blacklist and we want you to help us figure out which tired, overused phrases should be on it.

Clichés are the sign of a writer who isn’t trying very hard. Remember the controversy in February over an ESPN headline about Jeremy Lin that used the phrase “chink in the armor”? Here’s what Poynter’s Jason Fry wrote in an ESPN ombudsman post-mortem:

We note that the phrase that got ESPN in so much trouble is awfully shopworn and lazy. Whether they can be misinterpreted or not, clichés are signs of a writer or speaker on cruise control—which increases the chance of a crash.

Clichés signal to the reader that the writer, given a chance to say something, falls back on the familiar and easy. That reader would be wise not to expect anything incisive, insightful or original from that writer.

When I started writing this post, here was my first paragraph:

It is what it is, but at the end of the day, we need to avoid clichés like the plague.

But then it dawned on me that starting a post about avoiding clichés with a big pile of clichés is … a cliché. I thought I could do better. Maybe I did, but at least I tried. You probably haven’t read that first paragraph before.

I told you we need your help to minimize the clichés on B/R. You can do that by steering clear of them in your own writing, of course, but we’re also trying to create a blacklist of the most egregious clichés for Bleacher Report writers and editors to use as a guide.

So what are the worst clichés? What are the ones you can’t stop using? What are the ones that, if you read them one more time you’ll scream?! Or take a hostage, or some other cliché.

Leave your blacklist suggestions in the comments. They can be specific to sports or more general in nature. We’ll combine your suggestions with those of B/R’s copy editors to come up with a list that you’ll want to … give a wide berth.

  • Scott Carasik

    Not really a cliche but a transition: “That being said”

    • Mike

      Lol I use that all the time

    • Shaun Church

      That is literally the one I was going to write.

      • King_Kaufman

        This isn’t an example of it, but it reminds me: When people use “literally” to mean “figuratively.”

        “If the Jets score two touchdowns in a quarter, their fans would literally die of shock.”

        • Shaun Church

          I do that quite often for effect. It’s literally my thing.

  • Mike

    I was going to say” at the end of the day”

  • Adam Nystrom

    “Live and Learn.”

    “Another day, another dollar.”

    “…but, what can you/we do?”

    I despise cliches. Bloody despise them.

  • Mick Walker

    It is what it is!

  • Greg Pinto

    I’m guilty of the “…at the end of the day” one… but to use another cliche, I’m working on it. Lol

  • Chris Trapasso

    “Moving forward.”

  • John Brown

    Take it to the next level. This must be stopped.

  • M.F. DiBella

    Perhaps we need to re-think some of the cliched SEO-grab headlines as well? “Power-ranking” “Lessons learned,” etc. The slideshow does not have a permanent shelf-life, we’ve got to evolve our content as well. Just some two-penny thoughts.

    • Shaun Church

      “Offering my two cents” or “that’s my two cents,” also haha.

      • M.F. DiBella

        What about “passive/aggressive trolling?”

        • Shaun Church

          Just helping the cause. You’re welcome!

  • Sam Tighe

    I don’t use it, but let’s just get this one on the record as the worst cliché in the book: “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

  • Jamal Wilburg

    Few that come to mind…

    Tremendous upside….
    Baseball is a marathon not a sprint…
    One game at a time…
    In a league of his/her own…
    The next ________ (fill in the blank with previous/current superstar name)
    Football is a game of inches….
    Impact player…
    High (name of sport) IQ
    Young freshman/rookie
    Old Veteran
    Do or Die
    Backs against the wall
    eliminate the mental mistakes
    Shutdown corner
    If you have two quarterbacks you don’t have one

  • Phil Watson

    “The guy/girl/insert athlete gender here doesn’t quit.”
    “They just wanted it more.” — Athletic competitions between either high-level collegians or professionals seldom are decided by desire alone and to imply otherwise is just ridiclously simplistic.
    Any reference to “great length.” If a guy’s tall, say he’s tall. If he’s got long arms, say he’s got long arms.

  • Steven Smith

    I loathe when people pluralize singular teams or players, i.e The Aaron Rogers and Adrian Petersons of the world. Why can’t players just be mentioned as a singular player?

  • Shaun Church

    “First and foremost”

    • Shaun Church

      Silver lining.

  • Sean Swaby

    Cliché/overused ledes that need to be retired (forever): “What a difference a (time period) makes.” “It was a tale of two halves…”

  • Mike M

    The straw that broke the camels back

  • Jeff Roy

    Being in my twenties when the Jonestown tragedy took place, “drinking the Kool-Aid” is a flippant phrase that misrepresents what actually happened. Many of those who died were forced at gunpoint to partake, so it was not a willful act for every victim. “Jumping on the bandwagon” may be a cliche itself, but has no horrific connotations as a substitute.

  • Kelly Scaletta

    Any Tim Tebow interview…

  • Jonathan Bones

    Any use of the word epic.

  • Tom Firme

    “sometimes we like to talk about”
    “the media always says” (or any other phrase that includes that broad term “the media”)
    “he’s a good football player” (or any unnecessary naming of the sport about which you are writing)
    “we always like to talk about”
    “he has the intangibles”

  • Kelly Scaletta

    I’ve been giving this some thought and this is an honest question. A lot of the things being listed are merely idioms, and not necessarily cliches? Idioms aren’t negative, cliches are, but the harder I try to distinguish between them, the more difficult it is. Here’s a link with a good thought on the distinction.

    My personal thought after much reflection is this. Does the phrase (cliche or idiom) say what you’re trying to say better than your “own words” would?

    For instance, one comment lists “sport here” IQ. Perhaps that’s overused, or it might be that particular phrase grasps a complicated concept in two words. An otherwise intelligent player might not have a high basketball IQ or a player might not have a college education but a high basketball IQ (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James). (And not trying to get into a discussion off what qualifies as intelligent here)

    You could say LeBron James has mental grasp of his sport, great court vision (cliche?) and awareness and always makes the right play (cliche?) or you could say that James has a high basketball IQ.

    The point is that there are certain number of expressions we use in discussing sports that convey meaning and because they convey meaning they can be delivered in a concise manner which also illustrates an understanding of the sport.

    So, while we certainly should avoid using trite, overused cliches that don’t really contribute to the piece, we shouldn’t “throw out the baby with the bathwater” (see what I did there) and rid ourselves of expressions which still have meaning.

    The goal of writing should be to convey things in the most precise and entertaining manner possible. If the use of an idiom fits that goal, then we should use them but if the use of cliche spoils it, we shouldn’t.

    I apologize in advance for any stepped upon toes in the writing of this comment.

    • King_Kaufman

      Excellent points, Kelly. We definitely will be taking this issue into account as we compile our “blacklist.” A cliche is an idiom that has been overused, often to the point where it starts to lose its meaning.

  • Mark

    Beginning an article with “Tis the season …” “Tis the season for NFL training-camp cuts …”

  • Adam

    Comparing LeBron James to any sort of motorized item (freight train, truck, ect…).

    Calling large, lanky, and/or fast athletes a “beast” or various equivalents.

    More terrible sayings that mean absolutely nothing….
    –”XX wants it more” = No, XX does not. XX is more talented or better coached.
    –”Blazing speed” = So… speed.
    –”Extremely ____” = Only if ____ is actually the highest degree of something…
    –”Work horse”

    This is a great post idea and really makes you think about what you want to avoid doing. So many more…

  • Samuel

    I have read WAY too many people say “without further ado…” at the end of their lede.

  • Matt

    “Taking talents to …” is a phrase that I’ve heard/seen on ESPN daily since LeBron James “took his talents to South Beach.”

  • StevenSeawright

    “Elite” anything