Dis the season

Writers and editors have a love-hate relationship with holiday cliches. We rail against them and rely on them. They come back every year like a Charlie Brown TV special. Like green bean casserole. Like Santa dolls that dance to “Jingle Bell Rock.” Like markdowns at the discount store.

A funny flurry of e-mail messages flew among The N&O news staff Tuesday about stories, captions and headlines that allude to “Yes, Virginia,” “’tis the season” or the “Grinch.”


John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun has written about the cliches that he and his staff excise in copy at this time of year. His blog entry prompted Steve Merelman, the Page 1 editor at The N&O, to remind our writers that copy editors will be alert to such hoary phrases and will respond with extreme prejudice. Steve’s message prompted some staff members to point out that such admonitions against cliches have become cliche! In fact, some would say that what we in the business derisively call cliches are in fact familiar cultural touchstones; they establish a connection with readers. As one staff member said, we find comfort in the familiar. He compared such phrases to holiday fruitcake.

So I wonder if readers care that every year writers deck their copy with holiday cliches, that caption writers have visions of sugar plums or that headline writers resurrect the ghosts of Christmas past. What do you think? Click on the comments below and add yours.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.