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Cliché Riddance

This coming year, let us resolve to make even better use of social media in engaging others and building relationships critical to our business.

Moreover, let us acknowledge that social media itself is changing, and that quality content is steadily eclipsing the many marketing gimmicks out there meant to automatically increase our volume of “friends” and followers.

One prompts us to slavishly insert keywords for improved search engine optimizing, another urges us to post inane, high-response questions like: If you were a piece of furniture what would it be?, while yet another advises us to share the latest talking cat video memes, which are practically guaranteed to “go viral.”

Too bad, because success in the design business has always been more focused on class over mass, quality over quantity.

Clear, informative, personal, and conversational content of the highest quality – that’s where the experts tell us social media is headed (and not a moment too soon!).

So how engaging is a post that begins this way: “Casually elegant, this low-key luxe space features priceless antiques along with clean-lined mid-century modern furnishings, while offering drop-dead views…”?

If you’re like me, a post like this feels like reading the design version of Mad Libs, just swap out some words with a few goofy ones and end up laughing till you cry.

Or maybe just skip the post altogether, because left intact it sounds the same as the ones accompanying the project before it and the one after.

After all, has anyone heard of an interior design in New England that was not casually elegant?

To truly engage and get the most out of social media, it’s important to be very specific. Your story, your project is like no other in the world.

To describe it as “casually elegant” or “awesome” or “fantastic” means very little, denying that project’s uniqueness.

On the other hand, to go to the trouble of describing that project in its very particulars is a gift to your followers.

Ok, then. Let’s resolve to be careful about clichés in 2016.

But let’s also recognize that there’s a problem with being overly careful.

Because when you write a first draft it’s easy to fall into the trap of highly self-conscious self-editing and criticism that blocks the creative flow.

You start closing down before you even begin, at least I do and I’ve been writing about design for thirty years.

In a first draft I might catch myself writing some deathless phrase like this: “Ultimately, Bob Jones restored the shingle style home to its original splendor.”

Yuck, I hear that hyper critical part of me say with wagging finger. That’s such a worthless cliché!

True enough, that phrase does little credit to Jones’ hard work and talent, and even less to my readers and myself.

It says nothing about something that actually has quite a story to tell if only one were to look at it a little more carefully.

However, what I don’t want to happen is to give up in dismay, now that I’ve caught myself using a lazy cliché or two.

I have to reassure myself, it’s only a first draft: “original splendor” will never appear in the post itself. Even a 160 word Twitter twit can begin life as a 700 word first draft, and often does.

“Stunning views” may sound just right at first, but you can bet it will eventually get cut, along with “low-key luxe” and “casual elegance”.

Indeed, what writing there is by draft three or twelve can end up representing the kind of quality content that makes you forever proud, not to mention advancing the evolution of all design-focused social media into more meaningful and productive forms.

Are we OK, then, leaving off self-editing our first, windy drafts?

Can we give ourselves a break and wait till we rewrite in order to phase out some of those meaningless phrases design writing seems particularly prone to?

If so, I’d love to hear from you regarding some of your favorite overused adjectives and cliches of the past year.

What will you be looking to cut out when you are in the process of rewriting?

(There’s a Design Cliché Award for the best submission.


it's all about relationships







© Louis Postel 2017, first published by Graphisoft USA