Writing and Publishing

Why We Should Avoid Clichés

In past posts, we talked about the importance of watching out for words that can mean opposite things, words with confusing meanings, and slang. Another consideration is clichés.

A cliché is an overused phrase or idea. Initially, it may have been a colorful word combination, but with excessive use and abuse, it has become trite.

I heard about a college student dismissing Shakespeare because “He uses too many clichés.” What the student didn’t realize was Shakespeare originated those phrases; it was other people, who out of appreciation for his ingenious turn of a phrase (a cliché I slipped in for illustrative purposes), made them into clichés by repeating them ad.

I once received an article submission containing three clichés in the opening sentence, mixing metaphors (which is close to becoming cliché) in the process: “You need to get off the fence, step up to the plate, and go for the gold.”

Ick! Gag me with a spoon. (A cliché; also slang and dated pop-culture).

Unless you’re trying to make a point, as I am here, clichés should be avoided like the plague. (Isn’t this fun?)

Not only do you need to search and destroy all clichés, you are even well-advised to avoid using phrases that are on their way to becoming clichés. Although using them would be passable today, their presence might relegate you to the status of a second rate hack by future generations.

But then, if like Shakespeare you are the originator of the cliché that would be the cat’s meow.

After all, it is what it is.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.