There seems to be a battle of clichés going on in Internet articles. First let’s establish what a cliché is. According to the Online Dictionary, a cliché is defined as a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought. An example of a cliché would be: “It’s better to have loved and lost, then to have never loved at all.” Understanding the sentiment of encouragement, this term has been so overused in summing up a way to deal with heartbreak that, according to some, it’s lost it’s effectiveness.
Some of your more common garden variety of cliches are:
- Read between the lines.
- Play your cards right.
- It’s an uphill battle.
- Better safe than sorry.
- You can’t judge a book by its cover.
- Bring to the table.
- The grass is always greener on the other side.
It also helps to be able to distinguish between an idiom and a cliché. An idiom is defined as a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light ).
Some of the more common idioms in our English language are:
- Better late than never
- Bite the bullet
- Break a leg
- Call it a day
- A blessing in disguise
- A dime a dozen
- Go back to the drawing board
You know they have software for that.
I never forget when I first started writing and finished my manuscript—going back through substituting clichés for sentences that had the same meaning. You know they have software for that, such as cliché finder. For awhile I hit the panic button, but was finally able to accomplish the task. Now I feel somewhat foolish; as a well-placed cliché’ can be effective in writing when used to describe a complex situation—making it easier for the reader to relate to and understand. That’s my first positive spin on why using clichés are in the pro column.
Others on the internet are of the opinion that using clichés is the “kiss of death.” Seemingly, they take the freshness and originality from your writing skills. While others have the sentiment that if used correctly, clichés can be a part of your literary creations. As a blogger, clichés can be your “calling card” by defining your character as a writer. Also, if placed properly, a good cliché can synchronize you with a specific demographic. For example, “back in the day” is a terminology my generation can relate to and would be comfortable in reading within those parameters. Don’t be afraid to apply that strategy—it has been known to work.
No matter the opinions—everybody uses cliches. Here are some good ones to live by:
- There’s no time like the present,
- Fake it til you make it.
- You are the company you keep.
- Every cloud has a silver linining.
- What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
- You can’t judge a book by its cover.
After studying the pros and cons of clichés, I’ve come to the conclusion—you don’t have to lose your mind when using them. You should never encompass your entire writing around or weave so many clichés into your writing that it “bores your reader to tears” or makes them put your book down. You just need to know how to strategically place them for effectiveness in your writing. And from here on in, if a Grammar Nazi says to me that using cliches is the “kiss of death”, I will probably blow them a kiss back. Or send them a paper airplane with the message “that’s water under the bridge”—be real!
What’s your opinion?
Clichés used in this post: It’s better to have loved and lost, then to have never loved at all, back in the day.
Idioms used in this post: kiss of death, calling card, bored to tears and water under the bridge.
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