Caught in a Cliché

A cliché is a phrase or expression that is overused to the point of becoming an annoyance. Clichés begin life as clever expressions’ but like your toothbrush, socks and underwear, no matter how useful they are, eventually you have to toss them out and find a substitute.

A cliché was once clever and eye-catching – conveying a distinct message in a very descriptive way that makes them memorable and repeatable; but, like your old clothes, after too much use they acquire a distinct aura; and an impression of laziness and lack of imagination.

Clichés should be obviously avoided, especially in academic, professional writing, speeches and even conversation. While they convey a message that everyone understands, they also reflect a lack of imagination and creativity in conveying it. Like wearing the same clothes to work every day, It gets old, and people start to talk.

The thing about clichés is they are all actually very descriptive phrases. They give a clear image in one’s mind of what emotion is being described, but have just been overused.

How to avoid a cliché?  Well, “proof read” and try to find some other, more specific, way of saying it:

  • “My eyes glazed over” – “It was so boring I fell off my chair!”
  • “He pushed all my buttons” – “I was so energized I could glow in the dark!”

Try it yourself:  Find some more descriptive and imaginative alternatives to the clichés below that convey the same message and create your own cliché:

  • It’s driving me up the wall.
  • Mad as a wet hen.
  • The writing on the wall
  • Hook, line and sinker
  • The calm before the storm
  • Nip it in the bud
  • Stuck out like a sore thumb
  • Leaps and bounds
  • Chomping at the bit
  • Avoid it like the plague.


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