Popular Phrases and Why They Usually Don't Make Sense

Ever read a line in someone's book and think it's flavorful but then pause, trying to make sense of it?


Your editor will probably tell you they do all the time, and usually it's a simple fix. But it might leave the author wondering why they couldn't have their amazing, saucy line.


Here are a few we see more often than others and why we tend to change them. 

"Look at [them] through [my] eyelashes"


Unless your eyelashes curve downward instead of upward like most, it's not particularly easy to look at your eyelashes, let alone through them. Avoiding having your character(s) look at something will enhance your writing anyway, so stick to "narrowed eyes" or "squint" or something that better describes how your character is looking at whatever they see.

"I find myself" in a place I brought myself to.


Just because you haven't been in that room before, doesn't mean you are finding yourself there. There is a good chance you got there yourself. A book I read recently had: "I find myself sitting in her driveway, contemplating if I still want to go knock on her door or put it in reverse and drive away." You didn't find yourself there, man. You drove yourself there. The "I find myself" phrase should be kept for things like being taken somewhere while sleeping or blindfolded, or for when your character is magically transported.

"[They] begin/start to" do something that they also finish.


If your character performs an action, have them do it. Don't only "start" it or "begin" it. When they only "start" or "begin" something, it's implied they aren't going to finish, so your reader will be anticipating an interruption. Reserve those terms for when a character gets cut off, or distracted, or if it's a task that takes a long time to accomplish and you're going into inner monolog in the meantime.

"The color drains from my face."


This is specifically strange using first person narration. While the color might be draining from their face, color is something you see, not feel. And chances are, they cannot see their face at the moment this line is used. If it's important to notate the color change in your scene, your character can "feel their face flush," though it's generally best to avoid using verbs like feel/see/realize/etc. for more immersive storytelling.

Have another popular phrase that makes you wrinkle your nose? Send me an email because I'd love to hear it!