Whether you’re a writer or not, you’ve likely encountered the term cliche before. Maybe just in conversation when someone says ‘that’s so cliche’ or in an English class when you’re been taught to avoid them in you’re writing. Though we’ve all heard the term before, do we really know what it means? And can we identify a cliche when we see one? If you’re a writer or blogger and are putting your words out there for people to read, you should be looking for every possible way to make your writing stronger – and cliches are not one of them. Cliches weaken every sentence they are a part of, and cutting them out of your writing, and even your daily speech, will make you a better communicator.
What is a cliche?
A cliche is an expression that has become so over used in common conversation or writing that it no longer holds a strong meaning. Some popular cliches are: hot as hell, cute as a button, easy as pie, think outside the box, like a kid in a candy store, like a bull in a china shop. We’ve all likely heard these before, and know what they are meant to mean, but we don’t think about that when we read them.
What is wrong with cliches?
Cliches are a great way to quickly convey a meaning that everyone will be able to understand. However, the problem is that the comparison or meaning of cliches is not as strong as it once was – that why they are cliche. For example, one day years ago someone said ‘wow it is hot as hell out here’ and that was the first time anyone had ever used that comparison. It was a brilliant comparison and the people in that conversation could really feel the heat of hell against their necks. But, as more and more people started using this comparison, it got weaker and weaker. Every time someone said ‘hot as hell’ the heat got a little less hot, until eventually, today, the comparison really holds no meaning at all. Think about it – when you hear someone say ‘hot as hell’ do you really think ‘holy crap that’s hot’? No, you’re just like, yeah hot I know. Think about this – something that’s a little less cliche. It’s as hot as bare feet on scalding pavement in mid July. Doesn’t that hold a little more meaning – can’t you feel the heat on your feet?
The problem, of course, is that as something is used more and more, it is becoming cliche. The hot pavement analogy is already a little bit cliche – because you’ve likely heard it before. But, for the most part, the most cliche cliches are easy to spot. You just need to see them and think of a stronger way to convey your meaning – one that will actually make people think about what you’re saying. The problem with cliches is that they are so common that people already know the meaning, so they don’t think about it, and don’t get invested in the feeling.
How to avoid cliches
When you’re trying to identify whether something is cliche or not – think about whether you’ve heard that saying before. And then think about how often you’ve heard it. Think about what the meaning is and how the words make you feel. Most of the times, cliches are very cliche and are easy to spot, but sometimes it’s a little tougher. But, one you’ve identified a cliche, think about the meaning you want to convey and a different way to say it so that people actually have to think or visualize it to comprehend the meaning.