Cut through the clutter, one butter knife at a time

October is a scary month.

Deadlines are piled on top of one another, weekends are filled with distractions (triathlon, triathlon and Homecoming this Saturday) and weekdays are jammed in an attempt to stave off the impending crush of paperwork and assignments.

My mental energy is low, my physical energy isn’t much higher. I’ve resorted to watching quarterbacks evade tacklers and antelopes attack bikers.

My roommate, Kurt, passed along a stunning Radiolab film called “Words,” which has a rather small quantity of namesake units.

Words, specifically verbs, are the focus of my attention these days for magazine editing. Phrases, however, diverted my mind for a few minutes.

Overused, tired, boring phrases are called clichés, and they need to go away. George Orwell thought such a “lump of verbal refuse” should be unceremoniously heaved “into the dustbin where it belongs.”

Nothing may be original, but clichés, Orwell wrote, save a person the job of thinking. Those phrases are part of a larger quantity of forsaken verbiage known as “unnecessary language.” It’s a major load-bearing column in the architecture of The Elements of Style.

Technology makes it easier than ever to catch these spoilers and relegate them to the Island of Misfit Language.

A blog has collected examples such as “tragic death,” “final outcome” and “blend together.” It also references the use of these phrases in current articles.

Utilize this resource lest you become an Orwellian non-thinker. In other words, your writing will be as dull as a butter knife.

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