Thank you to everyone who voted and weighed in on the phrase “coming of age,” which 66% loathe, 33% love, and the silent majority is silent because I didn’t give them an option. Sorry!
My own personal feeling on the matter, after great reflection and meditation, is that I don’t actually have a problem with the phrase per se and to reiterate again for the uninitiated, I would never reject a query for something trivial like a simple phrase. Even if you misspelled it and somehow turned it into a rhetorical question.
However, in defense of nitpicky posts like yesterday’s (and others you see around the Internet from fellow agents who have been turned into raging beserkers by pet peeves gone wild), I like to call attention to these things from time to time because they provide a glimpse into the repetition repetition that we see in our inboxes inboxes.
And ultimately, what I’m trying to get across is that it’s so so so important for authors to take a big ole weed wacker to their queries and take out any stock phrases and cliches. I understand that these are extremely difficult to spot because 1) you don’t read 1,000 queries a month and 2) cliches are such a fabric of our speech that they’re like breathing — you don’t know you’re doing it until you choke on something.
But sometimes I think authors self-concsciously use phrases like “coming of age,” “trials and tribulations,” “more than they bargained for,” etc., because they sound right. They sound like phrases authors would include in their pitches. But that’s precisely the wrong instinct. In fact authors should go in the exact opposite direction — rid your query of phrases you’ve heard before, write with originality, and you will have taken a very prodigious step toward crafting a query that stands out and sounds original rather than one that blends into a very crowded crowd.