What’s a cliché?
Merriam-Webster defines a cliché as the following:
“a trite phrase or expression; a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation; or something (such as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace.”
Put simply, a cliché is a phrase that has been overused in writing.
Why You Should Avoid Clichés in Writing
By definition, using clichés is recycling old words. Text full of clichés makes a writer appear lazy and uncreative. To the reader, it’s viewed as padding, or as some call it, “fluff.” It gives the impression that you didn’t truly work at it, and instead just used the first thing that came to mind because you’re so used to hearing and/or reading it. Originality is important in creative writing. Therefore, clichés should be avoided.
Tips to Avoid Using Clichés
Clichés are used so much in our everyday communications that it can seem impossible to avoid using them when writing. With a little effort, they can be rephrased to communicate the same meaning. Here are some tips to help you do this:
- Think about what the cliché actually means. If it’s too difficult to come up with the basic meaning, try looking up the cliché in a dictionary. Then you can use the dictionary definition as a starting point for finding appropriate synonyms.
- Decide whether or not you actually need the expression at all. A lot of clichés are simply long-winded “fillers” (the “fluff” I mentioned earlier), and can be removed altogether. Wordy, overused phrases take away from the quality of your writing.
- Rewrite the sentence. For example, instead of writing “she cried like a baby,” you could write, “she cried like she was reliving every heartbreak in her life on repeat.”
- Make a conscious effort to stop saying them. If you’re constantly using clichés in your everyday conversations, it will be hard to resist using them in your writing.