The Inescapable Idiom

I’ve spent the last year interning in an advertising agency as a copywriter. While I gained a lot of technical experience and learned a lot of crucial things about the industry, I came away with one thing in particular: copywriters are the corniest people of all time.

One of our clients was an animal shelter. I wrote headlines for ads and body copy for newsletters, and I can’t even tell you how many times I typed “dog puns” into Google. Now, the best advertisers can take these phrases and turn them into something catchy and brilliant, but all writers face the challenge of whether or not you’re taking the corniness too far. Idioms and puns definitely have their purpose when it comes to catchy headlines and memorable taglines, but they just serve as strangely worded confusion in everyday writing.

Another issue with putting these cliché phrases into your writing is cultural barriers. Sure, “shooting fish in a barrel” might make perfect sense to some people, but to some, it’s total nonsense. Apart from the fact that they take away from your credibility as a writer, they severely disrupt the flow of your piece. If people have to stop and ponder what you’re even trying to say, you’re message isn’t getting across the way it should be.

The fact of the matter is that there is always a better way to say something than by using a corny pun or an overused idiom. Speak succinctly, and you’ll find creative ways to communicate without having to resort to messily constructed metaphors. Leave the cheesiness to the advertisers who can sell it well.


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