Avoid Clichés

Below are some valuable remarks on a common fault in writing.

A cliché is an expression that was probably, once upon a time, an original and brilliant way of saying something. Imagine being the first person to say something as clever as “She fell head over heels in love” or “She’s cool as a cucumber.” Sadly, though, such expressions eventually lose their luster and become trite and even annoying. Writers who indulge in tired language are not being respectful to their readers, and writers return the compliment by losing attention and going on to clichessomething else.

It is particularly galling when a writer or speaker relies on tired language to the point of creating a hodge-podge of mixed clichés and assorted vegetables. A mayor of Austin, Texas, once announced, to everyone’s bewilderment, “I wanted all my ducks in a row, so if we did get into a posture, we could pretty much slam-dunk this thing and put it to bed.”

Here is a list of trite expressions to look for in your writing and speaking…

acid test
at loose ends
babe in the woods
better late than never
brought back to reality
black as pitch
blind as a bat
bolt from the blue
busy as a bee/beaver
cat’s meow
cool as a cucumber
cool, calm, and collected
crack of dawn
crushing blow
cry over spilt milk
dead as a doornail
dog-eat-dog world
don’t count your chickens
dyed in the wool
easier said than done
easy as pie
feathered friends
face the music
flash in the pan
flat as a pancake
gentle as a lamb
go at it tooth and nail
good time was had by all
greased lightning
happy as a lark
head over heels
heavy as lead
horns of a dilemma
hour of need
keep a stiff upper lip
ladder of success
last but not least
looking a gift horse
#in the mouth
meaningful dialogue
moving experience
needle in a haystack
open-and-shut case
pain in the _____
point with pride
pretty as a picture
put it in a nutshell
quick as a flash/wink
rat race
ripe old age
ruled the roost
sad but true
sadder but wiser
set the world on fire
sick as a dog
sigh of relief
slow as molasses
smart as a whip
sneaking suspicion
spread like wildfire
straight as an arrow
straw that broke
#the camel’s back
strong as an ox
take the bull by the horns
thin as a rail
through thick and thin
tired but happy
to coin a phrase
to make a long story short
trial and error
tried and true
under the weather
white as a sheet
wise as an owl
work like a dog
worth its weight in gold

Source: Guide to Grammar and Writing

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