Here’s a pop quiz. Read the phrases and sentences below. What is the common denominator?
- Take it or leave it.
- I’ll cross the bridge when I get there.
- To each his own.
- Think outside the box.
- Dead as a doornail.
- Ignorance is bliss.
- The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
- Every rose has its thorn.
- I learned a lot.
- Made a difference.
- Drive me to go the extra mile.
- I have a passion for…
If you identified these as cliches, you’re correct. Cliches are overused phrases that have lost their fresh, metaphoric power. A sign that your mind is either tired or underconfident is an abundance of these littering your writing.
Readers will start to tune out if you use clichés to make your point. This means a prospective client will become bored reading your blog or newsletter, or the admissions counselor at a college will tire of your essay and pass it over. Clearly, clichés are something you want to avoid, but how? In earlier drafts, you probably can’t (and you shouldn’t edit your writing while you’re drafting anyway).
There are strategies for weeding out clichés once you reach the editing phase Use the thesaurus! Having confidence in your own viewpoints, pruning out cliches in the editing process, or switching your word capture process from the computer to dictation will steer your writing far away from these old problems. Alternately, hire a professional editor to review your content and give suggestions on how to avoid beating a dead horse (see what I did, there?).