Clichés | Avoid them like the plague!

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with michaelalexanderchaney

“These sayings took hold because they bespoke the warped consciousness of a whole people during the infancy of their social contract. Do you want to see civilization’s baby pictures? Take a long cold hard look at a cliché and then say goo-goo gah-gah.” Clichés I Don’t Get


In today’s piece Michael embarked on a humorous investigation of clichés he doesn’t get. Well worth a read if your funny bone is in need of a tickle.

I chuckled from the bird in the bush to the one in the hand and back again, going as the crow flies, and killing two birds with one stone, I got to know his piece like the back of my hand, which nearly slapped me silly as I did my best to avoid getting drunk as a skunk in the process.

You get the idea. Clichés. The bane of writers everywhere.

I can tell you now that I have a handwritten collection of nine hundred and eight clichés to avoid, and I’m pretty sure that my list only scratches the surface. He-he. See what I did there?

I’m sure you all know what a cliché is, but I’d like to be thorough, just in case a novice comes across this post and would like a quick definition.

A cliché is an expression or idea that has become trite due to overuse. They come from all over the world, have different interpretations contingent on cultural knowledge and identity, and are – as we are all well aware – a popular form of expression.

Some clichés are used to describe time, as for example:

  • Time will tell: something will revealed or elucidated over time
  • In the nick of time: when something happens just in time
  • The time of my life: instead of a really great time

There are a plethora of clichés used to describe people, such as:

  • As old as the hills: very old
  • Fit as a fiddle: someone in great shape
  • Weak as a kitten: a very weak person.

Even our inner life is one for clichés:

  • Opposites attract: people who like different things and have different views are likely to fall in love
  • Scared out of my wits & Frightened to death : being very frightened
  • All is fair in love and war: you can do whatever you have to in order to conquer someone’s heart
  • All’s well that ends well: if there were problems along the way, it doesn’t matter as long as there is a happy ending

They all became clichés for a reason. They are a convenient expression shortcut. However, these overused phrases can also be a barrier to communication. When a reader comes across a cliché, they start tuning out and may even miss the message we are trying to get across.

I refer you here to George Orwell’s advice, which I believe is as pertinent today, as it was when first pronounced: Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”

“At the end of the day” is one that gets my blood boiling, as well as the constant use of “like” as if it were a form of punctuation. “To the bitter end” gets another big NO from me. Also, I cannot stand “That’s ironic”, “virtually” or “literally” when misused. It makes me want to scream “I will literally kill you if you keep saying that!”

There are other repetitions which may not be exactly clichés, but which for me certainly read that way. For example, I will literally die 😉 if I see another exhibition of a “burning gaze”, “looking though thick eyelashes”, “wry smile”, “rearing of an ugly head”, yet another “dumb blonde” and that oh-so-annoying “OMG” in print.

If only walls could talk, they’d tell those cliché lovers to think outside the box and stop chasing their tail or that’ll be the nail in the coffin of their literary career. Walls would of course attempt to communicate in a language intelligible to repeat offenders. To those who are beginners in their craft, they may adapt their language and presumably would find a way to say all this without using clichés.

Which clichés do you find the most annoying?

I’m sure you must have a few favourites at least.

Now I very much doubt that Michael will see my picking this as the topic of today’s Let’s Talk Opinion as the equivalent of taking candy from a baby, although I did feel like a kid in the candy store when I visited his blog earlier today. Just killing time, I thought, but it was certainly a game-changer and I soon realised that comedy like that comes once in a blue moon. That’s that. Cat got my tongue! 😉


Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

50 thoughts on “Clichés | Avoid them like the plague!

    • Oh, Michel, that is just lovely. The image you created made the letter quite as real to me as Hogwarts is 😉 Thank you. I’m very glad I was able to return the favour of a chuckle.
      Warm regards,

  1. Yet another amazing post Vic. I found it very helpful. 🙂 The handwritten collection of nine hundred and eight cliches got me all curious… would you mind posting them? If it’s not too much to ask. 🙂 I bet they’ll be an interesting read.

  2. I’m probably as guilty for using cliches, but I particularly boil at “at the end of the day”. Glaswegians can have a variety, such as; “pure dead brilliant” and “By the way”…

    • Thank you, Cat. I suppose clichés are usually divided amongst regions by preference. “Pure dead brilliant”? Haven’t heard of that one before. [adds it to list] 😉

  3. Excellent post! The truly terrifying thing, though, is that I’m sure I’ve got one or two clichés in my novel. I managed to weed out a couple (something about how fear like ice in my character’s veins was one, I seem to recall) but I bet there are some I haven’t even noticed. Probably can’t see the wood for the trees…

    • Ha-ha! Great ending. I’m also hunting for clichés in my work. When it comes to describing characters in particular it is so difficult not to fall into the trap – or traps rather, since there are so many of them. I rather think that the clichés have come to outnumber the non-clichéd descriptions.
      I came across “How not to write a novel” a couple of years ago. It was a great laugh, but I also discovered some of the mistakes I had made as a beginner. Corrected them all, at least all the ones I was able to recognise as such. Relying on other readers for the rest. This is one of the things I’ll ask my next to read for: clichés only. Find them. Cut them. Add them to the list, if not there already.
      Wonderful comment. Thank you.

  4. Upon reading this post, I find myself instantly overwhelmed with the desire to write solely in cliches… the same thing happened when I read a post recently about not using adjectives. I get your point, but it feels like you have issued a delightful challenge. 😉 I am heading over to read that linked post because it sounds as though that writer had a lot of fun expressing his frustrations.

    • Ha-ha. Thank you, jamborobyn. Well I’m sure you’ll have fun attempting it. I’ve read some stories in the past that did just that and realised that it was tougher than I’d imagined – keeping a story on track when writing only in clichés 🙂 Let me know if you go ahead with the plan. And, yes. Michael’s post is a delight. Enjoy.

      • Yes, it’s damn near impossible and Michael’s post was a delight, all the more for realising just what kind of skill goes into producing an article like that. I’m enjoying your “let’s talk opinion” posts – and various other stuff you write, if that wasn’t already obvious or stated.

      • Tank you. I’m very pleased that you enjoy them. So glad you liked Michael’s article as well. He does have a very good way of using humour to get across a serious message.

  5. I never thought of ‘at the end of the day’ as a cliche, but it is a bit wordy for my taste. I remember in Newspaper we had a point board and would lose points for every cliche in our articles.

    • That sounds like a great way to get writers to pay attention to clichés and avoid using them. Thank you for sharing that, Nina. If I find myself using them I might start my own point board.

  6. I write a lot of clichés, I like them, I know I shouldn’t and I’ll try to avoid them, I hadn’t thought about this to be honest. Thanks for the post.

    • Thank you, Scarlet. I think we all use them when we write our first drafts, as they are an easy shortcut. The problem with using clichés is that — because they have become clichés — these expressions no longer have that same descriptive and emotive power they possessed when they first appeared in print. So… what I try to do is find an alternative way to say what that expression says without using it. In finding your own personal way of expressing a feeling or thought you increase the connection between what you write and the reader. 🙂

  7. I tend to write cliches often too but sometimes you can’t help but express words through nothing but cliches. And even though they are so overrated its become something so universal that once it is written, no matter who you are and where you are, you will understand what was written by the author (as funny as that all sounds). 😉 I personally use and enjoy the comment, “I don’t mean to sound too cliche” as my overused and rundown cliche comment haha 😀

    • Thank you for your comment, love o’clock. In writing this post I realised that I have one cliché in my novel which I failed to take out during the first round of revision: “Rise and shine.” Now I have to find an alternative. Any suggestions?

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