An Editor’s Peeve

There are clichés in every line of business. Wait, is “line of business” itself a cliché?

Over time, there are a few cliché’s specific to writing about wildlife that have started to get under my skin.

See! There’s another one. The truth is, clichés are unavoidable. But as an editor, it’s my duty to try to help writers avoid them anyway, when possible. Some writers appreciate this more than others, of course. I try to approach it as a suggestion rather than a command.

There are clichés, and there are clichés. That statement itself may be a cliché. See how tough this battle is? There are garden-variety clichés, which anyone might use in casual conversation or in writing. Then there are those specific to this topic of wildlife conservation. Among the latter, my least favorite is this one: “the places animals call home.”

I probably missed a few dozen of these in the first couple of years that I worked at Arizona Wildlife Views. But at some point, I started noticing how often our writers use it. Once I noticed, it started to bug me, like an itch that won’t go away. Now, I can’t stand it.

Every time it crops up, I have to stop myself from pointing out to the writer that animals don’t “call” anyplace “home.” They just live there. That would sound snarky. I try not to be a snarky editor. It doesn’t make the world a better place.

Instead, I gently suggest that the writer try to find some other way to convey the concept of “home range.” I cross my fingers, hoping they’ll agree to change the wording, even if they don’t manage to invent the next great metaphor for this concept.

This is, I know, a “peeve.” All editors have them. I’d like to think it’s part of our charm, but I’ll bet it’s just a milepost on the way to curmudgeonhood. I suspect that the longer you work with words, the more peeves you have. I’ll try to develop mine slowly.

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6 thoughts on “An Editor’s Peeve

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  1. Very good! My favorite cliche I deal with is “______ works tirelessly for wildlife.” All the while I’m think they don’t really look that tired.

    1. “________ works tirelessly for wildlife” and “________ has a passion for wildlife” are tied for second place on my peeve list. We use them, but not without editorial cringing.

  2. OMG, Julie – I have this problem in general. I hate “With all due respect.” What??? So overused and doesn’t have a meaning, really. Also the use of phenomenal, which has improved (meaning there is less of it).

    1. It’s an interesting thing about peeves: Once they become peeves, we notice examples everywhere. It’s like an allergic reaction, isn’t it? I’m glad you’re seeing less of at least one of your peeves. That’s progress!

  3. actually, this may all be true.  in other words, yeah….  have a “a really nice” day!!  dad

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