Wednesday, February 20, 2013

No, they're noooooooootttttt

Q: What could be worse than the return of "pain at the pump"?
A: A cliche on top of a cliche followed by a pointless simile!

They’re drilling, baby, drilling
– and gas prices still going up

They’re baaaacccck. Like locusts ravaging fertile crops, gasoline prices are soaring again and eating away at the purchasing power of ordinary Americans. And again, financial speculators appear to be a big part of the story.

See how much easier life gets if you simply delete the cliche as soon as you write it? No need to worry about where to place a hyphen to get the sing-sing effect, no worries about whether the vowels are supposed to go "aah" or "AAAAAAAAAAAAAA," no messy string of consonants that shouldn't be repeated, more time to think about getting rid of the locust bit and telling us what your story's about in the first place!

Lots of routine offenses against the craft of good writing show up even when the cliches are deleted. Here are a few from the "pump pain" story above:

Average gasoline prices in Michigan were pushing rapidly toward $4 per gallon Monday, a psychological benchmark that irked motorists and likely made passage of a gas tax proposal from Gov. Rick Snyder even more difficult.

You're cheating on the time peg here. The prices weren't "pushing" any more rapidly Monday than at any other time in the past month; "Monday" is just there because the story's going in the Tuesday paper. "Psychological benchmarks" aren't real in any psychological sense; like "grim milestones," they're things journalists make up because, well, they ought to be true. And the annoying postposed phrase leaves us wondering what's doing the irking here: the benchmark or the pushing.

The rising gas prices -- a product of numerous regional, national and global factors -- come amid Snyder's call in his State of the State address Feb. 7 for state lawmakers to increase Michigan's wholesale gas tax by 14 cents a gallon and its diesel tax by 19 cents to pay for road repair and maintenance.

Since Snyder's call happened when it happened, it's hard to see how the current increase in gas prices, however rapidly they may be pushing some fictional barrier, could come "amid" it. This is random journalistic guitar noise: When you don't know what you're saying, hit something loud and look pained

I buy gasoline too. I'd kind of like to understand what's going on with its price lately. Excuse me if I don't see a lot of merit in listening to random prattle interrupted by cliches.



Anonymous raYb said...

Besides the catalogued offenses, the writer flubbed his word image by saying the locusts were ravaging "fertile crops." The crops aren't fertile, the fields are. So "ravaging fertile fields" gets what the locusts devour right, on top of which, it's alliterative,

10:36 AM, February 21, 2013  

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