Clichés in Writing — Are They Always Bad?

cliches in writing are they always badIt might remind of an entertaining game when you read the beginning of a phrase and already know how it will end. Think of all these: “as easy as pie,” “don’t play with fire,” “beauty is only skin deep,” etc.

When coming across alike expressions in a text, it becomes obvious that we are dealing with clichés.

Each of such phrases has a different meaning. Yet, there’s one thing all of them have in common: the lack of originality. But if all of them are not unique, then why are they used in writing? Are they always bad? How to avoid them to make a message genuine and catchy?

In fact, in writing, clichés can often affect not only wording, but the creation of characters and the development of a plot as well. However, in this article, we are going to focus mainly on those of them that refer to word choice only. Thus, we will dwell upon the above-mentioned questions to make a conclusion if clichés in writing perform any positive function, and if they can add benefits to a text.

Top 12 common clichés in writing

Let’s start with defining what, actually, this term itself means. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a cliché is “a saying or remark that is very often made and is therefore not original and not interesting.” This word was borrowed by the English language from French in the 19th century, and means “stereotype.” In other words, this notion defines a saying or expression that has been so often overused that is considered to be boring and sounds unoriginal.

Yet, what are clichés in writing that people use too often? Brian A. Klems, a senior online editor of, asked his colleagues for help. So, the Writer’s Digest team of editors made a list of 12 clichés that are most commonly used and, thus, have to be substituted with more authentic wording when composing text.

According to them, the most frequently mentioned clichés to avoid in writing include the following:

  1. Avoid it like the plague—means that you try to avoid somebody or something by all means.
  2. Dead as a doornail—to be completely dead, showing no signs of being alive.
  3. Take the tiger by the tail—to deal with a difficult problem or a situation which is dangerous and not easy to cope with.
  4. Low-hanging fruit—a target which is easy to achieve, or an assignment which can be easily completed.
  5. If only walls could talk—is used to say that some significant events happened in some particular building, though they are kept a secret.
  6. The pot calling the kettle black—meaning that people shouldn’t blame someone else for the negative traits they have in their own character.
  7. Think outside the box—to present original ideas instead of sticking to common ones.
  8. Thick as thieves—speaking about two or more people who are very close to each other and could be even called best friends.
  9. But at the end of the day—it is a synonym for “ultimately”.
  10. Plenty of fish in the sea—is used to comfort and encourage somebody to start new relations with other person.
  11. Every dog has its day—to say that things will surely change for the better.
  12. Like a kid in a candy store—to have no limitations in one’s behaviour.

Well, if for entry-level authors the idea to mention some commonly-used expressions seems like an appropriate option, for those who aim to write professionally, that definitely isn’t the best strategy to follow. Otherwise, you would never grow into a great and skillful writer—one that can boast of wide readership.

The main problem with clichés is that they block the flow of original ideas. Indeed, using common and well-known phrases that have fixed meanings makes a story predictable and, thus, the effect of narration gets weak. Besides, it may produce the impression that the author is lacking unique ideas and borrows commonly accepted ones. This, in its turn, may reduce the reader’s’ attention to the writing piece and encourage them to find some other author who can create juicy descriptions and catchy metaphors.

After analyzing how clichés can spoil a writing piece, it seems a better option to stop using them and encourage the originality and one’s own vision of characters, scenes, and circumstances.

Effective ways to avoid clichés in writing

Now that the negative side of using clichés in story making is obvious, it’s high time to answer the question of how to avoid clichés in writing?

Let’s consider in what ways we can make a text more unique instead of using set expressions in it. The following pieces of advice will help make your writing more creative:

Write down all common clichés you have seen.

  1. Look at your writing piece. Does it contain any of the expressions mentioned in your list?
  2. Suggest your own interpretation of the image and present it to the reader.
  3. Communicate with other writers and ask them to share their experience with you.
  4. Join a writing workshop or attend a lecture dedicated to the issue of using clichés and the ways to avoid them.
  5. Take every effort to work out unique similes, comparisons, metaphors, etc.

As soon as you refuse to use phrasing invented long ago, you will get a chance to reveal your true writer’s potential and, hence, develop and polish your own style. The readers always admire those authors who can involve them into the story by a good deal of wit, humor, unexpectedly new images, or whatever. So, the moment you decide to write, just be ready to create a brand new story to make an audience appreciate it.


Generally speaking, using clichés can’t be viewed as a favorable option for any writer, as far as it deprives a story of the needed amount of creativity and uniqueness.

Moreover, your works can even contribute to modern literature if you just increase the originality of every new story you create. It’s always the right time to refuse to engage in your old habits and choose a way that, though requires more effort, but pays off with true success.

Anyway, it’s always much better to try hard to produce the worthy pieces, rather than to copy well-known ideas and suggest only the second-best stories. Or do you seriously intend to impress anyone by all those worn-out phrases?