Over time, some expressions in speaking and writing become overused. When they acquire this type of form, they are known as clichés. For example, the following are clichés:
- The ball is in your court.
- Every cloud has a silver lining.
- Haste makes waste.
Part of Everyday Speech
Therefore, when certain words and phrases are used to the extreme, they become uninteresting or boring. In fact, the term, cliché is derived from a French word that describes the sound a printing plate produces that prints a phrase or word repeatedly. While clichés are part of daily conversations, most writers should avoid them when they write.
Definitively, clichés are described as overused expressions or ideas that convey another meaning. An overused expression lacks relevance because it is spoken or written to excess.
Opaque Idioms Used as Clichés
Some clichés represent an idea with another meaning. Examples of these types of cliches include the following:
- He has sweaty palms. (This phrase refers to someone who is extremely nervous.)
- He is a bag of bones. (This phrase refers to someone who is extremely thin.)
The above two examples are known as opaque idioms. If you translate this type of idiom, it does not make sense because the literal meaning is not even similar to the real meaning of the expression.
A number of clichés describe people or time. For example, the following clichés describe the trait or personality of a person:
- As brave as a lion (describes a brave person)
- As old as the hills (a reference to an old person)
- A diamond in the rough (someone with good future prospects)
Clichés that Describe Time
Clichés that are often used to describe time included the following:
- At the speed of light – performing an activity with exceptional speed
- Lasted an eternity – lasted a long amount of time
- Lost track of time – stopped paying notice to the time
Common Clichés to Avoid
Some of the common clichés that you should avoid when writing include the following:
- In this day and age
- Few and far between
- The fact of the matter
- Come full circle
- In the final analysis
- To all intents and purposes
- When all’s said and done
- In any way, shape, or form
Never use the following clichés as they are simply too well-worn:
- Avoid it like the plague
- Think outside the box
- Take the tiger by the tail
- Plenty of fish in the sea
Expressions that are Used Frequently that are Not Clichés
Some expressions that are used frequently are not clichés. These expressions are used for festivals, in the court system, and during ceremonies. They are considered appropriate as they are designed to fit specific occasions. Examples of these expressions include the following:
- Happy Birthday!
- I now pronounce you man and wife. (Wedding ceremony)
- I second the motion. (The legal system)
Removing Clichéd Expressions from Your Writing
In order to avoid writing clichés, think about the real meaning of the cliché. Take the keywords from the meaning and use one of the words to replace the phrase or look up the keywords in a thesaurus to find other options.
In some instances, clichés serve as long fillers to continue the flow of writing. However, it is best to remove the clichéd expression to remove the wordiness. While these types of phrases may assist you in increasing your word count, they will not enhance the quality of the content.
Samples of Changes
For instance, you can refer to the following samples to remove clichés and replace them with meaningful key words.
Change “In this day and age” to “Today” or “Nowadays”
Change “Par for the course” to “Normal”
Change “At the end of the day” to “Ultimately” or “Finally”
While you cannot totally avoid the use of clichés, it is still helpful to note that the expressions can be eliminated without changing a sentence’s meaning. They can also be reduced to a word or two, conveying meaning in a more succinct way. Anytime you depend on clichés when you write, you put up a barrier – one that can make it difficult to express yourself clearly.