Say It, Don’t Cliché It
Invigorate your writing by avoiding the common, worn-out, trite, hackneyed and overused
What’s in a cliché? Not much, says Joel Pierson, editorial services manager at AuthorHouse.
“You’re just re-using an expression that’s become so commonplace that its meaning is diluted,” Pierson says. “Readers gloss over clichés.”
"To correct them, discard the first thing that comes to mind, and the second and the third. Start thinking about the fourth, fifth, tenth, twelfth things that come to mind. That’s where creativity lives."
—Joel Pierson, editorial services manager, AuthorHouse
Cliché’s are so common in writing because they’re easy to come up with, but you should never settle on a cliché. The good thing is that once you’re on the lookout for clichés in your writing, they’re pretty easy to spot and remedy. Clichés are the dead horses that continue to be beaten, so when you find a cliché in your writing, face the music and head back to the drawing board. Push the envelope in your writing and avoid the clichés. You’ll thank me later.
“You’ve heard them over and over again since childhood. If it’s something your grandmother always said to you, it’s probably a cliché,” says Pierson.
Written clichés may be the easiest to identify because they are part of our collective cultural consciousness—they’re as plain as the nose on your face. Pierson said that statements like “Here we go again” and “Let’s get outta here” and “That’s what she said” are all examples of written clichés.
“But actions can be a cliché too,” says Pierson. “The hero having to choose between saving the innocent victims and saving a member of his family; the bomb counting down to zero, only to be defused at the last second; the romantic comedy where the wildly mismatched couple will fall in love by the end. These all-too-familiar plots are all clichés.”
The very definition of a cliché is that it is commonplace, so the obvious solution to getting rid of clichés in your writing is by thinking outside the box.
“To correct them, discard the first thing that comes to mind, and the second and the third,” says Pierson. “Start thinking about the fourth, fifth, tenth, twelfth things that come to mind. That’s where creativity lives.”
Of course, some writers may follow the credo that rules are made to be broken; and there are times when using a cliché is appropriate—but if you’re going to do it, do it well.
“As a parody, a cliché can be turned on its head for comic effect,” says Pierson. “And written clichés can be given to a character in dialogue to show that the person is out of touch or behind the times. But it needs to be done deliberately.”
Note: This article has more than ten clichés in it. Did you catch them?