HomeAbout UsFeaturesGrammarParts of SpeechUsagePunctuationCollege Courses

"Clichés are plagiarism for the masses."  Earl Eldridge

We use a lot of clichés.  That's the nature of our language.  So, if you want to sound like everybody else, use them.  On the other foot, if you want to sit apart from the rest, then be original.

Clichés  generally start out as figurative language, which is usually a good thing – figurative language, that is.  For instance, you want to say that, when forced to choose between two incompatible choices of action, a person refuses to make that choice, but instead acts in such a way as to reap the benefits of both those non-congruent alternatives, even though it is obvious that she can only successfully do one of the two, and, quite possibly, for failing to choose, will end up with neither. A bit much. So let’s come up with a more, dare I say, poetic way of stating it: “She wants to have her cake and to eat it, too."  The first person who said that was not using a cliché. She or he was simply using figurative language, and quite possibly, was thought of as being quite clever.  Figurative language is often the difference between some legalistic sounding tripe and something that sounds… well, good.  

Of course, when people read something they like, they’re tempted to use it again. And again. And again. And it transmogrifies from figurative language into a cliché. Notice the accent mark. That should be the first clue. It’s French. It' s not so much that using clichés is bad... well, it is... it’s just that, at best, clichés show no effort whatsoever at originality. And originality is the hallmark of good writing (though Hallmark is not known for writing well). Take, for instance, the cliché for getting up early in the morning: The crack of dawn. Anybody who uses that phrase obviously isn’t trying very hard, especially when he could have said, “...before the rooster even got home from the bar."

Clichés can become automatic language, where you string together phrases you haven’t given any thought to and have very little personally invested. You end up sounding like a greeting card where you’ve picked someone else’s words to tell your wife how special she is on your anniversary. Or a bad country music song. “You’re the love of my life, the woman I call wife. And I will lay it on the line: I’ll love you ‘till the end of time."

The biggest problem with clichés, though, is that quite often they have stopped making any literal sense whatsoever. Take our example above. What would be the point of having your cake if you couldn’t eat it, too? Uneaten cake is perfectly useless. Did that ever make sense? Or, “When is enough enough?”  That’s easy: always. Or, “Look out!"  Word of advice: If somebody is shooting at you, and someone else says, “Look out,” seriously question how bad that person wants to keep you from getting shot. 

Right off the bat, when you use a cliché you’re telling your reader that you’re not pushing the envelope, you’re not stepping up to the plate, you’re not thinking outside the box.  What it boils down to is that you are using trite phrases without even thinking about what you’re saying, which is the antithesis of writing.  Bottom line:  At all costs, avoid them like the plague.  What follows are some of our favourite clichés:

  

Awesome!

Bad Things Happen to Bad People

Count Your Blessings

Creative Juices

Dead in Your Sleep

Don't Even Get Me Started

Don't Judge

Dropping Like Flies

Due to the Fact That

Each and Every

Everybody is Unique

Everything Always Turns Out for the Best

Facts

The Facts Don't Lie

First and Foremost...

Gird your loins

The Grass Isn't Always Greener on the Other Side

Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

Head Over Heels

He Came Ready to Play

Hero

Hustle and Bustle

I Can Remember it Like it Was Yesterday

I'm Going to be Your Worst Nightmare

I'm Not Going to Lie

In Today's Society...

It Never Hurts to Ask

It's Better to be Safe than Sorry

I Would Have to Say That...

Last but Not Least

Life's Not Fair

Literally v. Figuratively

Money Doesn't Buy Happiness

Nooks and Crannies

A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity!

Out There

Peace and Tranquility

Practice Makes Perfect

Pretty Penny

Suits Me to a "T"

Think About It

Third Time's a Charm

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Tons

Up the Creek without a Paddle

Vim and Vigor

Violence is Never the Answer

When Pigs Fly

A Whole New Can of Worms

  

Back