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If justice is wiped out, then society will fall apart in no time.

I vacillate between "wipe out" and "wipe away". I do not know which one is better in this sentence.

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Forget the preposition - you're going with the wrong verb in the first place. From Google Books: "justice was wiped away" - no hits; "justice was wiped out" - 7 hits. What you want is probably "justice was swept away" (43 hits). – FumbleFingers Sep 27 '13 at 16:15

Wipe out means to destroy, so it probably fits your scenario better. Wipe away refers to the more generic wiping motion, so it is more commonly seen with phrases like "wipe away grease".

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Yes, you'd wipe away a smudge from a panel of glass. An epidemic could wipe out a whole people. – mikhailcazi Sep 27 '13 at 15:54

In this case, if you mean destroyed, I think it is far better to write destroyed.

If you want to apply a physical action (wiping) to an intangible subject (justice) you need a more poetic form or context in order to avoid creating a weak and awkward sentence.

I think "wiped out" is mostly applied to the destruction of living populations - I can't see how this creates a useful picture in the mind of your reader. This usage probably came from the action of cleaning writing from blackboards. The callous destruction of life as if it had no more value than some temporary writings in a classroom. I'm not sure the cliché is ready to be taken in a new direction without a lot more supporting effort on the writer's part.

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You sounds like an expert, so can you give me an example to show that we can somehow use a cliche in a slightly different way than it should be, while making the whole sentence meaningful and come alive. – benlogos Sep 29 '13 at 13:38

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