Creative Ways To Avoid Using Clichés
It’s hard to come across a writing tip without a sentence advising writers to avoid using clichés. They make your work look flat. The reader would find it dull. And thousands of reasons why you shouldn’t use clichés.
What are clichés?
Clichés are words or phrases that have been overused in writing or speech, demonstrating a lack of original thought and, as a result, have lost much of their meaning.
Examples of clichés
From the old ‘leave no stone unturned’ to the more current ‘it is what it is,’ clichés are so ubiquitous and disregarded that you may not even realize you’ve used them unless you’re very careful. The following are some common examples of clichés:
- It’s not rocket science
- At long last
- All walks of life
- At the end of the day
- Bring to the table
- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
- Actions speak louder than words
- Two wrongs don’t make a right
- Never say never
- Laughter is the best medicine
- In this day and age
- Think outside the box
- Avoid [someone or something] like the plague
- Stick out like a sore thumb
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Creative ways to avoid using clichés
- Try to be intentional while writing. Know your audience and their needs. If you can’t do (1) above, put aside your finished piece of writing for a day or so and read it again, with fresh eyes. You’d spot the clichés more easily this way. You may not see problems in a piece of writing if you are familiar with it.
- If your brain skips over some phrases, you are most likely using clichés.
- Stop using fillers. If you’re throwing in unnecessary words to meet up with a word count, you’d end up using a cliché.
- Try making your text as concise as possible. Rephrase ruthlessly.
- If you must employ a cliché, consider the meaning of the phrase. If you’re not sure, look it up. Make a list of adjectives that best define the stereotype. Instead, use one of those words or look up similar synonyms in a thesaurus.
- Ask somebody else to proofread your work.
- Recognize the differences between new analogies and weary old phrases.
- Clichés aren’t just for writers. We overuse these terms even in spoken communication. If you can avoid saying clichés as a writer, you can avoid writing them as well. After all, you write in a similar manner to how you speak.
Consider, for example, the common phrases that are typically exchanged in friendly greetings. How are you? How’s it going? How are you keeping? What’s up? In most cases we do not regard these questions, or the typical answers to them, as clichés; instead they are formulas, a stock of frozen expressions whose purpose probably has less to do with encoding information than with the maintenance of smooth relations.