What's the writing tip you can't afford to miss? Some hints--
- It's the topic of Chapter 43 of Bryan Garner's The Winning Brief.
- There are entire books written about it.
- It's a problem that's all around us, even in the title of this post. It will sap your writing of its energy and make a reader give up on you before he's even started.
The problem is cliché. As stated in Garner's book: "State your ideas freshly"--
Many clichés are almost exclusively legal. Consider the phrase it is well settled that--a phrase that many practitioners will defend by saying that it aptly introduces an idea for which there is much precedential support. In fact, it's a lame phrase because it's so worn out. A better phrasing is tailored to the situation: In a series of seven cases decided over the past decade, the New Mexico Supreme Court has consistently held that . . . Or this: Since 1938, the rule of this Circuit has been that . . .
In order to rid your writing of cliché, you have to be able to spot them in the first place. Look for phrases that are overused, that you've heard again and again, that you'd never call "original." Examples, not all of them from Garner: open-and-shut case, foregone conclusion, on all fours with, parade of horrors, Alice-in-Wonderland.