In this post, I continue my journey through the book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve. If you’ve seen my past posts highlighting information from this book, you’ll know that it is focused on quantifying various aspects of writing. So far, I’ve posted on the following topics:
- Exclamation points
- Writers following their own rules
- UK vs. US writing
- Gender in Writing Style
- Simplicity in Writing
This post looks at cliches and the frequency that they occur in the writing of notable authors. The clear winner (loser) in the use of cliches is James Patterson. Across his 22 Alex Cross books, he used 160 cliches per 100,000 words. Jane Austen is at the other end of the spectrum with just 45.
Blatt goes on to point out that the position of Patterson at the top of this list is not a surprise as many of his book titles, 11th hour, Cat & Mouse, 7th Heaven, are cliches themselves.
Some writers have contributed to the collection of cliches through the popularity of their writing. Joseph Heller titled his book Catch-22 which was original at the time, but has been used so much, it is now considered a cliche.
Shakespeare is another source of many of our modern cliches with such phrases as “all that glitters in not gold”, “dead as a doornail” and “heart of gold”.
So, how do you feel about cliche’s? Are they the bees knees or are they old hat? My opinion is that they bring a sense of familiarity to readers and color to writing, but should not be over used.
I look forward to your thoughts.