Spring is here and it is time for clichés to appear. Expect to see many blog posts and Tweets about blossoming, cleaning and rebirth. All are well meaning, some may be genuinely insightful. Yet they’ll feel tired and overdone by the time you’ve finished reading the third “Spring Clean Your Content” article.
Despite knowing it’s a cliché and corny, we still do it. We reach for the photographs of blossoming trees and spring flowers coming to life. We try to weave a narrative that starts with “spring is here” and ends with “buy our stuff”. Who can blame us when the pressure to churn out content is so relentless and sometimes the low hanging fruit is too tempting?
Yet clichés are a vital part of our language as shortcuts to a shared understanding. Talk about “spring cleaning” and most people will instinctively know what you mean. It gives the reader some comfort and sets an expectation you can use to lead them to the next step in your story. This should be an easy, related step that builds on the understanding you’ve formed in your reader’s mind. A natural progression from spring cleaning to reviewing or renewing.
Which brings me to the real ire that clichés cause. Countless times we’ve read articles whose opening paragraph leads us into the comforting embrace of the cliché, only for the second to charge off in an unrelated tangent. It grates, knocks us sideways and makes us question why we’re bothering to read on. Punishment is swift: a browser window is closed or a back button tapped. An otherwise reasonable, useful piece of content is lost because the author tried to make it relevant by slapping an opening paragraph on with gaffer tape.
I’m not against using a cliché as an opening, or even a theme. If it must be used it should be an integral part of your story, one you echo throughout. Don’t discard it after the headline because you think its job is done. Don’t copy/paste a paragraph to the front of your post to make it “relevant”. Treat it with respect and let it work for you.