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What is a cliché and why is it considered poor writing?

"There is no place for clichés in writing." Wise words from any English instructor. Clichés may be commonly used in conversation, but the use of clichés is not respected in academic or professional writing. If you don't understand what a cliché is, it is best to find out because educators, writers and business professionals find clichés highly irritating and consider it poor writing.

What is a cliché?

Clichés are phrases and expressions that were once popular but have been overused over time. Merriam Webster's definition is: "a trite phrase or expression; a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation; something that has become overly familiar or commonplace." The definition of 'hackneyed' is: lacking in significance through having been overused. Hence the negative connotation of the word cliché.

Why are clichés bad?

Clichés are considered short cuts and writers who use them may be viewed as lazy because they haven't done their due diligence as a writer to find a more appropriate term. Educators will often point out that there are better ways to phrase it.

Examples of clichés

Take the expression, 'upper crust', for example. This cliché originated in the 1500s when bread was divided by working class. (www.joe-ks.com) Hundreds of years later, it is no longer a current way of doing things, so a more appropriate term may be "upper class" or "higher social status."

Some more examples of clichés are:

  • Greek to me
  • Over the hill
  • In the dog house
  • Back against the wall
  • Under the gun
  • Better safe than sorry
  • Last hurrah
  • Between a rock and a hard place
  • Beggars can't be choosers

See more in the WriteCheck Writing Center

Related: 681 Cliches to Avoid in Your Creative Writing

Writing Skills academic writing, cliche, Plagiarism, what is a cliche, why are cliches bad, writing

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