In 1985, Simon Furman joined the staff of Marvel UK’s Transformers comic. He became a favorite writer among readers for his stories’ more mature tone and his passion for killing off minor characters. He was so well-received that Marvel US placed him in charge of their own Transformers books. He’s since become one of the most prolific writers in the entire Transformers franchise, having written for comics, novels, cartoons, and video games alike.
Throughout his body of work, however, is a surprising trend—the repetition of unusually specific turns of phrase, used in wildly diverse works and contexts. These lines first began to be codified during his tenure writing for Marvel in the 1980s, but have since spread to nearly every work he has penned. These phrases came to be identified by fans as “Furmanisms.” Some Furmanisms were characterized by a particularly overwrought metaphor, such as his frequently-used similes involving birds of prey, or reinterpretations of the Biblical Hosea’s “reaping the whirlwind.” Others seemed to have more in common with action-film one-liners, with multiple characters insisting that they “never did want to live forever,” or that they were about to give their enemies “the worst case of indigestion they’ve ever had.”
While Furman’s popularity as a writer may very well be in part due to these unique turns of phrase, a reliance on “fall back phrasing” may not have gotten him far in other mediums, particularly academic writing. As a college writer, it’s easy to build a vocabulary of phrases that help segue from one subject into the next, forming a set of building blocks for tackling papers both scholarly and creative. Such words can be immensely useful, but they can also become a handicap. I have always struggled with transitions using the word “however,” some of which can be found in this very blog post. In my work as both an instructor and student, I’ve also encountered many instances of the much-maligned “In today’s society…”
Of course, repetition of phrases within your writing is not always detrimental. It can be used to emphasize, or to establish a theme. It can also be used in creative writing to develop a character or motif… but if you’re not trying to do one of these things, go ahead and give your writing a second read to check for any unnecessary repetition. Otherwise, you might find it hanging at the edges of your paper, like some vast predatory bird.