At least be certain you are using it correctly. Here are some clichés I’ve seen and heard that weren’t quite right:
Ellen burst the candle with both hands.
Brittany said it’s an error to be human.
Last night Rodney slept like a lark.
Taylor behaved like a bull in a china closet.
Zander is rotten to the cork.
The burglar struck Marlie, and she fell down with a thug.
Ramona never takes planes. She likes to be on terra cotta.
Jeremy sticks to his girlfriend like a leash.
That’s Donald’s whole story in a bombshell.
Obviously, your best bet is to avoid clichés like the plague.
How often have you come across writing in which the author wrote lose for loose (or vice versa) or chose for choose (again, v.v.) or quite for quiet (vice versa, yet again)? It’s so easy to write a word that is close to the one you want, and your spellchecker will never highlight it because if it’s a word, it will be accepted. It’s up to you to proofread your writing.
I will torture you once more with my proofreading suggestions:
- Read out loud what you have written. No orating, no pontificating. You can read in a very quiet voice, as long as you can hear it come out your mouth and go into your ear. That way you won’t disturb those around you, and you’ll pick up more errors than if you read silently.
- Read slowly, one. word. at. a. time. If you read at your normal pace, you will skip over mistakes such as you when you wanted your or and when you meant any.
- Proofreading backwards loses the meaning, so it won’t help you if you left a word out.
- Trust me.
A British Mister? A Mister Misting?
Reading a news article today about current British-American relations, I came across a reference to a “British mister.” My first thought was that it referred to some British bloke (as they might say). Then I wondered if it were someone in government who was in charge of taking care of plants in government offices: watering, trimming, fertilizing, and misting them.
Obviously, the writer intended to write “minister,” but because “mister” is a word and software cannot determine context, “mister” prevailed.
Whether it’s fair or not, we are judged by the way we write. If we don’t proofread meticulously, errors will slip through and there’s a good chance we will be determined to be careless people. This can be detrimental in many areas of our lives.
Proofreading doesn’t take long. I’ve written about this before, but if we proofread silently and at our normal reading speed, we will read what we think we wrote, not what we actually wrote. Reading backwards will pick up very few errors: if you wrote the and meant they, you won’t catch it.
The most effective proofreading method is to read out loud—not as in some dramatic oration but just loudly enough that you can hear your words. It’s also important to read more slowly than your normal speed. If you do both, chances are you will write error-free text.