Why we use idioms in writing

When a boxer is taking too much punishment in the ring, their trainer is likely to admit defeat and throw in the towel. That is, both literally and figuratively.

But when a client recently used this to describe someone changing from one industry to another because they saw better opportunities, it highlighted the importance of making sure we know the meaning of an idiom. And that we’re using it correctly. In this case, usage of the idiom implies the person gave up, when in fact, they did quite the opposite.

Getting across messages clearly and succinctly is crucial for businesses – so it’s important we use idioms to help and not hinder communication. This is something that we will always look out for when copy-editing.

Why we use idioms in writing

Idioms are central to the English language – we’d barely be able to get through a day without them. They can help us express something where no other words or phrases will do so well. But idioms are also regularly misused, and when it comes to writing, a wrongly placed idiom can stand out like a sore thumb.

Every idiom comes from somewhere. And often, by understanding its specific origin, we can better understand how to use it correctly.

Turn a blind eye

Another example of a popular idiom is to “turn a blind eye”. During the battle of Copenhagen in 1801, the admiral in command sent a signal via a system of flags to Admiral Horatio Nelson’s forces, to tell them to stop their attack. Nelson lifted the telescope to his blind eye and said he couldn’t see a signal, ignored the order and went on to destroy the Danish fleet. This story clearly explains how to use the phrase properly.

Always here to advise our clients

Idioms can add colour, character and humour to an otherwise slow or dry piece of writing, whether it’s for a blog post, newsletter or product copy. But using one incorrectly is worse than not using one at all. If you’re not sure what an idiom means, perhaps it’s time to throw in the towel with it. Alternatively, contact On Point Copywriting for some friendly advice.

 

Featured Image: Pixabay