A Blessing in the Skies
Using incorrect idioms is a quick way to annoy someone, as I'm sure you were annoyed by the title of this post right off the bat. This title is annoying and yet charming to me. It has a nice sentiment, if completely wrong from the original, "Blessing in disguise."
A few days ago I found this on the interwebs, and after my left eye stopped twitching, I found this absolutely hysterical:
Google brings up Reddit user /u/noconverse, so they will get the source credit today.
Let's get down to brass tax: using idioms in your writing is controversial. It depends entirely on what you are writing. Idioms make me think of work. In the business atmosphere, they are a great way to add color and comedy to eye-roll situations. They improve nonfiction dialogue by allowing the characters to seem more real. This rings especially true if you are writing a period piece. People use idioms constantly in every day life, such as, "sick as a dog" and "hold your horses." However, by using idioms you are isolating those that do not use your idioms. Imagine, say, that your work is published overseas (let's keep our collective fingers crossed) and the idioms in your novel do not translate. There is nothing similar. Obviously, we expect the translator knows what to do in those situations, but my point stands.
When writing fiction, idioms make you seem unimaginative. They date you. Depending on how common your idioms are, the older you sound. To say in your writing that something was "selling like hotcakes," you confuse anyone that has never heard the phrase. And you sound like a grandpa. Which again, if you are writing a period piece, is all fine and good. But what if the idiom you used wasn't around until 10 years after your "period piece"? We live in the days of the internet, people, someone will research that and find out.
In Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling went out of her way to give nothing in the text to date the characters. By removing media and everyday current items (1997?) from her writing, she gave her writing the opportunity to hold true and relevant as the years pass. You don't read it and think, "My, the 90's were a weird time!"
There is no 90's slang, "As if!"
There are no advertisements for Tommy Hilfiger.
Using idioms in your writing is a delicate practice. You should consider whether they are necessary or if you can be more meaningful by using a different technique.
I stand firmly on creating your own expressions. By creating your own metaphors and similes, instead of using aged idioms, you m
ake your writing timeless and unique.
Next up I'll talk overuse of words, like how I used "idiom" 14 times in this post.
All my love,