Cliches - Overused, worn out and they need to die!


Aug 26, 2001


The Bottom Line Cliches belong to others, don't let them smother your writing.

Just like tired old clothes, worn out shoes, cliches are just that, expressions that cease to die. They were fresh once, but are excessively overused with a stale fragrance. Some are so stale and worn out, that it wouldn’t surprise me if they landed in Webster’s dictionary. You can probably recite them just by seeing the first two words.

Dead as ……….; gentle as ………; take the bull………;
beat around……….; Golf-ball ………; nip it………….;
tried and…………; play hard ………… hungry as ......

So many cliches have been heard repeatedly, and if you know them all, so does your reader. In your writing, search for any cliches, clean them out. Because we are so used to talking and thinking in cliches regularly, it will take some adjusting to come up with new material. If you let them seep into your writing, you are being careless. Try to create a new way to express your meaning; remember cliches add little newness to your article. Replacing tired cliches will be a challenge, but it will be your voice and style that comes out.

“Cliches are the enemy of taste” says Author William Zinsser “On Writing Well.” He says: If a writer lives in blissful ignorance that cliches are the kiss of death, if in the final analysis he leaves no stone unturned to use them, we can infer that he lacks an instinct for what gives language its freshness.

Here are some that need to be put to rest eternally.

Pushing the envelope – Music journalists are stuck with this one, how did that one originate anyway? I hate it and I can always tell when it will spurt out of the mouth of these guys.

Back to the drawing board - Go back one more time and erase it forever.

Bite the bullet - Nowadays we have novacaine for pain, use it.

Beat a dead horse - That always sounds brutal and cruel; I never like that one.

Better late than never - No, late is late, never is never; just don’t be late never.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt – Try changing the courts and law books.

Cutting edge - The edge is now very very dull; sharpen it! There is no more cutting edge technology, we are there already for the 100th time.

Easier said that done - This one is always used in a derogatory manner. How about “Golly Gee Beev, that might be pretty hard to do!”

Face the music – Why face the music, I like music, don’t give music a bad rap.

Hit the nail on the head - Pound that one for good. If you can’t think of something with creativity, try the banal, simplified “Man, you got that right!

Insult to injury - It stops here, injury. No more, injury is sufficient.

Ladder of success - A corporate zinger that has no meaning anymore, kind of like the "Bottom Line."

Lying through his teeth – Media personality of playboy Condit: “He was lying through his teeth.” Let’s pull that decayed one for good.

Make a killing - Huh??? Too scary to use in this gun-happy society.

More than meets the eye - You don’t need anymore as long as you can see and hear.

Moving experience - Yeah, I did that a few times, packed up everything.

Needle in a haystack - This has me puzzled, a needle pokes, it isn’t invisible.

Sneaking suspicion – sneaking isn’t cool, therefore your suspicion is less valid.

Sadder but wiser – If one is wise, leave it at that, congratulate yourself for being wise.

The nick of time - A nick is a cut, plain and simple.

Play it by ear - Only if you can create music, otherwise drop it.

Penny for your thoughts - This one is “Excluded for Epinionators only!”

Skin of my teeth - Where do we get “skin”? Whoever made this one up should be shot, as outdated as it is, he just might be by now.

Straw that broke the camel’s back - You should be charged with a felony if you use this one. Who has something to replace this dinosaur.

Tip of the iceberg - The Titanic went down nearly 100 years ago, resurfaced, down again, leave it there.

Tongue in cheek - Anyway you look at this one, it sounds bad. Not sure people even know how to use it, I know I haven't ever used it, I don't think I know it. Anyway, stuff this one back in the cheek.

Get rid of these too: water under the bridge...; between a rock and a hard place...; holding the bag....; up the creek without a paddle....; not by a long shot..... and last but not least expire last but not least.

Let your own style come through, cliches belong to everyone.

And....."the buck stops here"..(no cliche intended)....….MzRizz


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