Why You Should Avoid Clichés in Your Writing
A cliché is a word or phrase that has fallen into common use. Generally, the term is used in a negative way, referring to phrases that lack originality. Here are a few common examples:
- Read between the lines.
- Woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
- Only time will tell.
- Fit as a fiddle.
- Opposites attract.
- The calm before the storm.
- Frighten to death.
- What goes around comes around.
- A clean slate.
- Against all odds.
The very nature of these phrases means that, in terms of everyday speech, they are extremely common. They are used regularly in conversation, which is why they seem so familiar to us when we are faced with them. Yet although these terms are often used in casual discourse, it is good practice to avoid clichés in your writing. They can have a very negative effect on your content, presenting the wrong image to your audience – particularly if you do not want to appear conversational. Here are some of the reasons why you should avoid them.
#1 – They Create a Conversational Tone
One of the main issues with clichés is that they are – by definition – unoriginal. They are often used in everyday conversations, which means they can be extremely counterproductive if you are attempting to create a formal piece of writing. An official document or academic paper can be invalidated by the casual, conversational tone presented by clichés.
These phrases can also have negative effects on creative writing; they can make your content seem stale, unimaginative, and even anachronistic. This is because readers will associate phrases such as “fit as the fiddle” with certain periods, dialogues, and perhaps also conversations that they have held in the past. Such associations can distract them from your writing, causing them to lose focus and feel disengaged.
Readers may also become disinterested in your writing once they spot a cliché. This is because they can give the impression that you haven’t put a lot of effort into your content. You haven’t strived to create an original description: you have opted for a well-used cliché. This can give some readers a negative impression of you and your content, causing them to judge it too harshly.
#2 – Readers Will Skim Over Them
Of course, if you want your writing to have a conversational tone, you should still be aware of how clichés can negatively impact your writing. These are phrases that your readers will already be used to hearing, which means that, when they see in them in a piece of writing, they may skim over them. Consider a few common clichés:
- The grass is always greener on the other side.
- The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
- A wolf in sheep’s clothing.
These phrases are so commonly used that our brains don’t have to work especially hard to understand them. They don’t consider the details, which means we don’t picture the green grass, the apple tree, or the deceptive wolf when we read these phrases. We skim over them, failing to appreciate the descriptions. This is a good example of why you should avoid clichés in your writing: if you use them to convey details, they may be missed by the reader.
#3 – They May Not Actually Be Saying Anything
Another issue with clichés is that many of them do not contain any real content: they are lengthy ways of saying reasonably simple things. A good example of this is “in any way, shape, or form”. This phrase can be cut in half, and have the same meaning as the full-length cliché.
If you have a word count that you need to keep to, clichés such as this can waste the words that could be used to convey important points. Moreover, even a piece of writing without a word count should not purposefully waste their readers’ time. Generally speaking, clichés do not convey information, description, or make your writing more appealing. In these cases, they should be avoided.
Thank you for reading this post about why you should avoid clichés in your writing. If you would like to read more writing advice from Literary Edits, why not check out our post, “The Problem With Typing Errors“?