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Clichés are overused metaphors and often employ the words like and as

Agents and editors hate clichés. However, clichés are so deeply imbedded in our language, we don't know we are using them. Personally, I applaud all those creative people who came up with the phrases that give our language its biting wit, sappy compliments, colorful swear words, and delightful put downs. Our world would be boring without such gems as:

Dead as a doornail

Like a cat on a hot tin roof

Hot as snot

Sure as shootin'

Detractors call clichés predictable, annoying, a symptom of lazy writing, and bordering on purple prose. The main concern is cliché abuse.

The key to using clichés well is to use them sparingly and twist them to make them original. They can be placed strategically to add a comic punch or to define a single character, not the entire cast.

                Cliché: Dick won’t rock the boat.
                Twist: Dick won’t rock the rescue dinghy.

                Cliché: Not for all the tea in China.
                Twist: Not for all the fortune cookies in China.

There are too many clichés to list them all. Some are so ingrained in our language, it would sound stilted to avoid them. Make artistic choices.


? Turn on the Clichés, Colloquialisms, and Jargon option in the toolbox. They will be marked for you. As you read through your draft, decide which to keep and which to kill. Have you used the cliché intentionally?
? Can you twist it or make it fresh?
? Have you committed cliché abuse? Should you trim them?
? Does the cliché fit the time and place?
? Does the cliché fit the background and personality of the character uttering it?

Verb Phrases

Let's review a verb's purpose and explain what a verb phrase is. A verb tells the reader what happens. The action can be modified by an object, assisted with a helper, or modified by a verb phrase. Verb phrases are often used in idioms, colloquialisms, or slang.

1) A verb object is the item upon which the action is committed.

Jane drove (subject/verb) the car (object).

Dick threw (subject/verb) the ball (object).

2) A verb can be modified with a helping verb:

Forms of to be: am, are, be, been, is, was, were.

Forms of to do: did, do, does.

Forms of to have: had, has, have.

Qualifiers: can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would.

Qualifiers can be red flags and often need to be cut. Search for them. Kill them unless they are absolutely essential to the point. 

Jane could see Dick edging around the corner, weapons out.

In distant third or omniscient: Jane saw Dick edge around the corner, weapons out.

First person or close third in Jane's POV: Dick edged around the corner, weapons out.

3) A verb can be modified by a verb phrase.

A verb phrase contains a verb and a helping verb that act as one word. The helping word always precedes the verb. The words never, not, and the contraction n't are negation words and are not part of the verb.

Dick could have been willing (verb) to fly (modifier).

Dick might not have wanted (verb) to fly (modifier)

We have become (verb) world travelers (object).

4) The helping verb can be separated from the verb in certain situations.

When asking a question, the helping verb comes before the actual verb.

Have you ever been to Spain?

Do you know the way to San Jose?

No, I've never been there.

Dick should never (negation) have gone (verb) there (modifier).

Revision Tips
? Make sure the verb phrases are used correctly. You should search for these verb phrase key words by selecting [Control] [F] or [Find] and entering the word. Make sure you avoid clichés.
? Evaluate all verb phrases. Are they used correctly?
? Do they constitute clichés? Can you change it or cut it?

  For all of the revision tips on verbs and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 

Subject-Verb Agreement

When revising, it is important to look at each sentence for subject-verb agreement. This is one of those skills that comes naturally over time. 

There are a few tricky circumstances to double check.

1) A singular subject requires a singular verb. A plural subject requires a plural verb with a few exceptions.

I sing. You sing. We all sing for ice cream.

The little girls all sang for their supper.

2) If the subject has two singular nouns joined with and use a plural verb.

Dick and Jane are ready to go home.

3) If the subject has two singular nouns joined with or or nor, use a singular verb.

Neither Dick nor Jane is ready to go home.

4) If the subject has a singular noun joined to a plural noun by or or nor, the verb should agree with whichever noun comes last.

Neither Dick nor his friends want to play catch outside.

Either Sally or Jane visits everyday.

5) The contractions doesn't (does not) and wasn't (was not) are always used with a singular subject.

Dick doesn’t want to go.

6) The contractions don't (do not) and weren't (were not) are always used with a plural subject. The exception to this rule is I and you require don't.

We don’t want to go with Jane.

You don’t believe me.

I don’t want to go home yet.

7) When a modifying phrase comes between the subject and the verb, it does not change the agreement. The verb always agrees with the subject, not the modifying phrase.

Dick, as well as his friends, hopes the Colts win.

Jane, as well as Sally and Dick, hopes the meeting will be over soon.

8) Distributives are singular and need a singular verb: anybody, anyone, each, each one, either, everybody, everyone, neither, no, one, nobody, somebody, someone.

Each of them will go there someday.

Nobody knows Dick is here.

Either way works.

Neither option is viable.

9) Plural nouns functioning as a single unit, such as mathematics, measles, and mumps, require singular verbs. An exception is the word dollars. When used to reference an amount of money, dollars requires a singular verb; but when referring to the bills themselves, a plural verb is required.

Five thousand dollars would suffice.

Dollars are easier to exchange than Euros.

10) Another exception is nouns with two parts. They can usually be prefaced with a pair of and require a plural verb: glasses, pants, panties, scissors, or trousers. Why they are considered pairs is another question.
Dick's trousers are worn.

Jane's scissors are missing.

11) When a sentence begins with the verb phrases there is and there are and they are followed by the subject, the verb must agree with the subject that follows.

There are many who would agree with you.

There is the question of who goes first.

12) A subject can be modified by a phrase that begins with: accompanied by, as well as, as with, in addition to, including, or together with. However, this does not modify the plurality of the subject. If the subject is single, it requires a singular verb. If the subject is plural, it requires a plural verb.

Dick, accompanied by his wife Jane, will arrive in ten minutes.

Everything, including the kitchen sink, is up for auction.

The cousins, together with their dog, are going to be here for a week.

Revision Tips
? This step needs to be done sentence by sentence and is best done on a printed copy. Identify the complicated sentences.
? Underline the subject and verb. Do they agree? If not, correct them.
? Make sure the modifying phrases are used correctly.

For all of the revision tips on verbs and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 

Infinitive Verbs

After we left school, few of us remembered what an infinitive was. Editors will remind you. 

Let's review: The infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to: do/to do and be/to be.

1) An infinitive verb almost always begins with to followed by the simple form of the verb.


                    Dick likes to run often.

                    Dick wants to fly planes.

                    Dick used to walk to work.

2) An infinitive is not doing the work of the verb of the sentence. Don't add s, es, ed, or ing to the end.

                    Dick (subject) likes (verb) to run (infinitive) often.

3) Infinitives can be used as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

Noun:                  To jam with the band after work was Dick's incentive to get through the day.

Adjective:            The only way Dick would survive his boring job was to dream about his gig at the bar.

Adverb:                Dick, an aspiring songwriter, suffered through his job at the tax office to pay for necessitities until his big break arrived.

4) A split infinitive is inserting a word between to and the verb.

Incorrect:         Sally wanted to thoroughly kiss him.

Correct:                 Sally wanted to kiss him thoroughly.

For effect:             Sally wanted to kiss him, thoroughly.

This rule is broken frequently. If you choose to split infinitives, do it intentionally and for emphasis, not because you don't understand the rule.

Revision Tips:

You can search and kill for the word to

Make sure you type in the search window: (space)to(space). 

Otherwise, you will bring up every combination of the letters t and o. The sheer volume may crash your computer.

You could also search and kill for word pairs: wanted to, tried to, ought to, used to, liked to, etc. 

Make a list of your favorite bugaboos and prune them into shape.

For all of the revision tips on verbs and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: