The Cliche and Leaving it out of YOUR writing

If you’ve ever had a peer review, or an editor read your work, you might have been told – Avoid cliches. In fact, it is frowned upon in all kinds of writing – from academic to fictional prose.

Why?

Cliches are old and tired phrases. According to Oxford, they are phrases or opinions that are overused and show a lack of original thought. Sometimes, clichés are useful to get a simple message across. Mostly, they are tired and worn out. In fact, synonyms for clichés include ‘platitudes‘ and ‘banalities‘.

Clichés also describe ideas, actions, characters, and events that are predictable or expected because they are based on something that has been done before.

Most of us may use them in our everyday conversations all the time. They are like old wives’ tales. They convey a meaning that everyone should understand – for example:

  1. at the end of the day
  2. few and far between
  3. a level playing field
  4. in this day and age
  5. to all intents and purposes
  6. when all’s said and done
  7. in the final analysis
  8. come full circle
  9. par for the course
  10. think outside the box
  11. avoid [someone or something] like the plague
  12. in the current climate
  13. mass exodus
  14. the path of least resistance
  15. stick out like a sore thumb
  16. a baptism of fire
  17. fit for purpose
  18. in any way, shape, or form

(this list comes from Lexico – who compiled common cliches we should avoid.)

The biggest problem with cliches is that they lack original thought. Writers should be trying to express their ideas with new words – unique words, and words that bring to the readers’ mind an image.

When read, cliches are often skipped over. Our mind automatically assumes what you mean. The problem exists because the words are so worn out and tired, that they have very little impact on readers. And, it is often believed that the author is simply stringing their sentences from tired ideas – someone who shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Anthony Ehlers, author of How Clichés And Jargon Ruin Your Writing says: ‘When we use jargon or clichés, we create fuzziness around the image or emotion we’re trying to get across. Be as specific as you can be and authentic as you can be. Every word must have your blood in it – anger, irony, admiration, etc. Don’t make it look like everyone else’s.’

How to avoid using cliches in YOUR writing:

When you come across a cliché in your writing, do your best to substitute it with an original thought. Here is a process that should help:

Write creatively:

  1. Think about what it means.
  2. List the images it evokes.
  3. List the words you associate with it.
  4. Rewrite the sentence using one of the other images or one of the other words.

Always do your best to make your writing as original as possible. Treat your readers to new and exciting ways to express an idea – ‘show,’ and avoid ‘telling’ with worn out words.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Published by Mustang Patty

I am finally a full-time author, who writes legal thrillers, how-to- books, short stories, flash fiction, a tiny bit of poetry, and Blog posts. My published works include 'Guilty until Proven Innocent,' 'Innocent for the Moment,' and 'Moment by Moment.' This is a trilogy called the Jill Adair Series. Additionally, I've written a collection of short stories about my dogs, Howie and Bernie - with a 2nd Collection coming in late 2021. I'm also coordinating an Anthology of Short Stories called, '2021 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology.' This book will be available on Amazon.com on August 1st of 2021. (The 2020 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology is currently available on Amazon.com - the collection includes 30 stories, written by 18 different Authors from three continents.) I am married to my wonderful hubby of over 37 years, and I have two grown children, named Heather and Gregory. I've been blessed with two beautiful grandbabies, Heather Rose and Logan Ernest.

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