15 Clichés To Avoid With a Ten-Foot Pole

2 min read

Trite, hackneyed, tired — there are plenty of words to describe an overuse of clichés in your writing or speech. While they can be an easy way to express yourself, more often than not they're a crutch, a sign of linguistic laziness. Start digging deeper into your vocabulary and leave these 15 clichés behind.

What Is a Cliché and Why Is It So Bad?

A cliché is a phrase that has been beaten to death (that's a cliché). Because it’s been so overused, any significant meaning it may have had has been lost. Instead of adding color and interest to your writing, you often wind up sounding corny.

If you’re writing about how scrappy entrepreneurs are achieving success, that message was lost the minute you wrote “survival of the fittest.” Charles Darwin sounded original in his theory of evolution; you just sound clichéd.

How To Avoid Clichés

Words are powerful. But clichés are so overused they have lost authority. Unfortunately, clichés are so ubiquitous that you may not even realize when they sneak into your writing.

The best way to cut clichés out of your vocabulary is to proofread, proofread, and proofread again. Take a break and get away from your work before you take one last pass to remove clichés. Even better, ask someone to edit your work. An editor who isn’t too emotionally close to your prose can eliminate your clichés.

Removing clichés will tighten up your writing and make your work more specific and descriptive. Avoid flowery descriptions and instead strive to make your writing more accessible.

Pull out a thesaurus to find good alternatives. Instead of “in this day and age,” just say “today.” Avoid “pros and cons” and try a descriptor specific to your argument — maybe "assets and liabilities" or “costs and benefits” instead.

The hardest part about cutting clichés is they are so widely known they just fall off the tip of your tongue (cliché). If you spot any of these phrases in your writing, pull out your red pen (another cliché).

Writing on the wall

Whirlwind tour

Patience of Job

Never a dull moment

Sands of time

Paying the piper

March of history

Hook, line, and sinker

Long arm of the law

In the nick of time

Leave no stone unturned

Fall on deaf ears

Cool as a cucumber

Cry over spilled milk

Champing at the bit

Photo credit: Ananth Pai/ Unsplash

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