08 August 2009

Why do we use cliches?

A programmer friend, who is on a sort of a sabbatical, was wondering if he could code as well as he did despite his long break from work. This prompted me to think if one could ever forget writing, too.

I don't think so. I feel writing is a process that helps you evolve and your writing, too, keeps constantly evolving. Writing exercises and involves the brain, hence it is not a task we can relegate to our reflexes.

In fact, communicating through the written word is quite a complex process. Vague, half-formed thoughts from the recesses of our brain have to be dressed-up and presented in a human language. That is not a skill Nature endowed us with.

Building the connect between the thought and the text does come easy if your thought is strong, full-bodied. At other times, writing something down can clear up fuzzy thoughts and give you direction.

It is the complexity of the writing process that makes people reach out to crutches: second-hand or automatic expressions. I've no argument with people who're happy with someone else doing the talking for them, but they will definitely find it difficult to be heard and understood.

People who use clichés or buzzwords like leverage, bandwidth, paradigm shift, legalese and commercialese like whereas, in receipt of, hereof are usually the most vocal against plain language. Their argument for gobbledygook is that everyone else is using them, and they are only fitting in.

This urge to conform is certainly strong, but the other reason why people are initially resistant to writing in plain language is that it’s actually not easy. We are often so accustomed to using borrowed expressions or conforming to a particular way of writing, that we are not familiar with our own voice.

Of course, not everyone who writes wishes to communicate. Lawyers are one such species of people.

But if you are writing to be understood, guard against use of clichés and gobbledygook. People have heard all the clichés there are to be heard, but they are really keen to know what it is that you have to say. Of course, if you've nothing to say, you better not say it.


Praveen R. Bhat said...

I found the answer, btw; my hands still can code. :)

As for communicating in a simple language, I turned out un/lucky with a small vocabulary and an even smaller memory. ;)

Anushruti said...

Hi Vijayalaxmi...nice to find you here. :-)