Verbal Tics

Not “ticks,” as I saw in another online source this morning (later: either Josh Marshall corrected this, or perhaps I misread it the first time through), though verbal ticks would be annoying too – perhaps burrowing under your cognitive skin and sucking out your creativity, infecting you with chronic cliché syndrome?

As I pound out my last Evanstonian paragraphs of the summer, I catch myself repeatedly resorting to formulaic constructions that vex me much (friends who’ve worked with me in the Writing Group will recognize these old nemeses coming back to besiege me): First, the “One of the. . . is. . .” construction, a prevalent but weak way of characterizing a specific item or quality from a range of other possibilities (“One of my most common tics is the ‘one of. . . is’ tic”); second, the negation-affirmation tic (“It is not X but Y,” boy does that one possess my writerly soul); and third, the paired-term tic (“fiercely and persistently,” “oppression and steadfastness,” blah blah blah). I will probably leave many of them in, from lack of time to edit them all out – but how annoying to observe myself yield to their power over me!

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