What is a Cliché?

From our: Writing Skills library.

A cliché is a word or phrase that has been overused in writing.

Clichés such as “leave no stone unturned” have been used so much in writing that they have lost all their effectiveness. These phrases have become weak and meaningless. They usually contribute nothing to the message you are trying to convey and will be viewed, by the reader, simply as padding. 

Text full of clichés makes the writer appear lazy and uncreative and will, for many readers, kill the significance of the writing.

If you want your writing to be fresh and interesting, you should avoid using clichés.  Try rephrasing your text to make it more concise and original. Ask somebody else to proof-read your work to help ensure that you are not using clichés or other unnecessary padding words and phrases.

Example Clichés to Avoid

The following list is by no means comprehensive but does highligh some common clichés. Clichés are often different in different cultures and in different environments.

You may well be able to think of other examples of clichés and/or people who overuse them both in writing and also in verbal communication.

  • In a nutshell.
  • At long last.
  • Going forward.
  • All walks of life.
  • At the end of the day.
  • Bring to the table.
  • I'm giving it 110%.
  • Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
  • As bold as brass.
  • Uphill battle.
  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • Too little, too late.
  • Sleeping like the dead.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • Two wrongs don't make a right.
  • Never say never.
  • Laughter is the best medicine.
  • People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Remember; it's not rocket science - avoid clichés like the plague in your writing.  (And note the deliberate use of clichés here.)