Monday, March 25, 2013

Overused Phrases That Make Me Cringe


Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know the phrases I can’t stand the most because I often talk (rant?) when I come across them while reading slush. Those phrases that make me cringe. Those phrases that, no matter the category or genre, end up in 90% of manuscripts (and a smaller—thank goodness—percentage of published books).

 
There’s nothing wrong with these phrases, per se. They’re descriptive. They show and don’t tell. They’ve simply been overused (times a hundred).  

 

So a few weeks ago I posed a question on Twitter, asking what phrases people were sick of seeing in books/manuscripts. Editors, readers, and authors chimed in and these are the top eight overused phrases in fiction:

 

8. glancing through lowered lashes

7. eyes like ice (to show a person is cold)

6. a voice like music

5. cheeks that burn like flames/fire

4. nails biting into palm, blood

3. breath getting caught in throat

2. biting lip and tasting blood

 

And the top Most Annoying Phrase…………..

 

1. letting out a breath you didn’t know you were holding

 

I want to hear what you think. What overused phrases make you cringe?

16 comments:

  1. Ha! These are fantastic. I have to admit, I was guilty of #1 several times in my first (trunked, thank God) novel. My favorite that didn't make the list is eyes that shoot daggers. Those are some talented freaking eyes.

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  2. Seriously WHO BITES THEIR LIP SO HARD THAT THEY TASTE BLOOD!??? No one, in the history of EVER has had this happened to them. (Can you tell which one on the list peeves me off the most? haha)

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  3. Gah! Guilty of #5 and #1! Thanks for the reminder.

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  4. Love the list. The one that I dislike the most is "A smile spread across her/his face."

    Right, because...ummm...what does it usually spread across? Their stomach? Thigh? Back?

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  6. Ha ha! Great! I have been guilty of number 1 & 3, but I do usually catch myself. What about hearts pounding against rib cages ... or is that just me? :) And I have to agree with Azia about the biting lips until they taste blood. IF ANYONE HAS EVER DONE THIS, PLEASE SPEAK UP!

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  7. 'He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear'. I'd love to see authors come up with some other things to do with hair.

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  8. Haha, I'm only guilty of number 1 (better work on that)! I particularly dislike it when the face is described as a "mask" and variations on this theme, "I pulled my face into a mask", "his face was an unreadable mask", etc, etc.

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  9. Ah ha ha Letting out a breath you didn't know you were holding. These are so true. and actually easy to fall into the trap of!

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  10. Wow! That is one heck of a list- and I am guilty as charged of using some of them! Never again, though. Thank you.

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  11. Oops, I think I'm guilty of #1 (off to check my wip now...)

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  12. I totally agree with the biting the lip. I once MUNCHED my lip after being to the dentist (I bit hard it while eating pizza and couldn't feel that I done it). No blood at all. Also biting inside the mouth and blood "gushing" out.

    Here's mine:

    Teenagers rolling their eyes. They don't do that every five seconds - I know because I've watched my son. Try another reaction.

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  13. How about "mouth shaped like a perfect "O".

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  14. I think "he pulled me flush against him" is one that's coming to mind that I see a lot. Those are some good ones up there, lol

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  15. Some great advice here! I think my biggest pet peeve has to be anyone who "looked strong enough to bench press a car" (or truck. Or motorcycle. Or...) Why are all strong men messing with automobiles?

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  16. Something about "going forward" always annoys the heck out of me. I guess it's because "in the future" or "looking ahead" are perfectly acceptable. But I think it's also because it's usually uttered by Public Relations professionals or politicians, both about as trustworthy and sleazy as your typical used car salespeople.

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