Avoid clichés like the plague

OK, I have an ax to grind: I hate to sound like a broken record, but I have to grab the bull by the horns: At the end of the day, I need to call a spade a spade and tell it like it is: It goes without saying that it’s easier said than done, but we should all try to go the extra mile to avoid clichés like the plague. (Yes, I realize this email is like the pot calling the kettle black.)

Although there are some expressions that seem to fit the bill and are just the ticket, it’s only a matter of time before these words fail us.

I’m pulling your leg, of course, but this idea should ring a bell; I’m not reinventing the wheel here. A word to the wise: When the going gets tough, it’s best to start with a clean slate and think outside the box.

Why avoid clichés?

Clichés are not wrong per se, but by definition, they’ve been so overused that they’ve become trite and ineffective. In turn, readers may lose interest in what you have to say. When you use more original words and descriptions, your voice becomes unique and interesting.

How to avoid clichés and make your words more meaningful

  1. First, read your work and identify any clichés. Use a list of clichés or a cliché checker (or a copy editor!) to find and avoid these overused expressions.
  1. Figure out the meaning of the cliché. Sometimes, you’ll find that it doesn’t really mean much at all. For example, an expression like the fact of the matter is that can probably be eliminated: Although the weekend is almost here, the fact of the matter is that I still have work to do.
  1. Rewrite the sentence or idea. Translate the idea into your own words. For example, instead of saying the best thing since sliced bread, you could say the best innovation in years (literal) or the best thing since the Cronut (more sarcastic).

The Copy Desk is keen to flag or change clichés, but as with Pokémon, it’s hard to catch ’em all. If you’re aware of them and make an effort to be more original, your writing will shine.

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