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Stop Trying to Be Clever and Say Something Meaningful for Once

As someone who reads and edits copy for a living and does a lot of reading and writing in her spare time, I think I have every right in the world to say that sometimes I really hate writers. I hate it when writers try to be clever at the expense of being honest — when they risk authenticity just to get in a cutesy turn of phrase or use some three-dollar word that they think will impress me.

As a concerned reader, I want to offer this piece of advice to writers everywhere: Stop trying to be needlessly precious and be genuine — just once. Please.

Being clever is great. Good turns of phrase make me giddy, but only when they’re meaningful, not when they’re just there so you can show me how puke-inducingly precious you are. I don’t care how smart you are. Think about what you’re trying to say. Is your labored metaphor muddying the waters? Is it so contrived it will make me want to hunt you down and give you a good old-fashioned lobotomy? If you answered “yes,” then go back to the drawing board and think (I know it hurts sometimes). Think hard. Think about what you’re really trying to say. If your reference to a trippy, obscure 1960s Russo-Finnish holiday movie is at least peripherally germane to the discussion, then great — go for it. Or tell me how the oeuvre of Boy George parallels the downward spiral of the American economy. I’ll be right there with you if you truly make a connection.

If it doesn’t relate, then ditch it. Think of a better way — a, dare I say, sincere way — to convey your point. A way that won’t make me want to chase you down with a rusty ice pick. Writing is hard — and writing well is even harder and not always fun.

By writing content that isn’t just an exercise in self-congratulatory douchebaggery, you will not only make yourself more credible and gain respect from your readers, but copy editors like myself won’t feel quite so compelled to destroy your frontal brain matter with a pointy implement.