By Joseph Priest, Social Media Content Strategist
The holiday season is here, and along with those old decorations we pull out and dust off are those shopworn clichés that we uncover and flood our language with each December.
While it’s true that marketers fall back on familiar phrases at this time of year, it’s also true that these phrases have become dull and lifeless after many years of use. Clichés are usually only effective if they can be used with a fresh twist or in an ironic tone. What’s more, one of the worst things about clichés is that by falling back on them we don’t stretch our creative muscles. We don’t try to find that perfect turn of phrase that could capture a reader’s attention and indelibly bring a situation to life.
So resist trying to set the mood with clichés such as “bah, humbug” or “you’d better watch out” or most other phrases that come from a popular song, poem, story or movie. This is not to say you shouldn’t try to cleverly integrate some holiday allusions when called on to do so for a client or campaign, but dedicate the time necessary to craft something original or provocative. That’s what will break through the clutter of clichés competing for everyone’s attention.
With that in mind, here’s a top 10 list of clichés to try to avoid in your writing, along with one note to remember about an often misunderstood wintertime term.
Good luck with your writing this holiday season.
10 Holiday Clichés to Stamp Out
- Christmas came early – Please, no.
- Dickens – Let’s give the famous author of A Christmas Carol a rest and keep “bah” and “humbug” out of our copy, and please stay away from ghosts of anything past, present, or future.
- Have yourself a merry little – Uh, uh.
- It’s beginning to look a lot like – Way, way overused. Please stay away from it.
- Jolly old elf – Don’t use it. And if you must use “Kriss Kringle,” remember the double “s” in the first name.
- Old Man Winter, Jack Frost – Leave these and other moldy personifications in storage.
- ‘Tis the season – This one cannot be made fresh. Do not try it.
- ‘Twas the night before – “’Twasing” is no more defensible than “’tising.” (And if you refer to the Clement Moore poem, the proper title is A Visit from St. Nicholas.)
- White stuff – If this phrase ever had any originality, it’s long since lost it.
- You’d better watch out – Resist the temptation to resort to this one!
Another Confusing Wintertime Word to Watch for
Xmas – This abbreviation is best not used in marketing writing, although it isn’t a slang word. The “X” isn’t a Roman “X” and has no connection to other “X-“ words, like Generation X or X-ray, in which “X” is used as a variable. In fact, Xmas is derived from Greek, in which the letter “X” is used to represent the first letter (chi) of the Greek word for Christ (Χριστος). In the early days of printing when typesetting was tedious and costly, abbreviations were common. For this reason, churches began to use “X” for “Christ,” and from there it moved into general use in commercial printing. Hence, the pronunciation “ex-mus” is a misinterpretation of this abbreviation; it’s properly pronounced “Christmas.” Now you know. 😉