Avoid clichés like the plague?

Author Chris James

There’s no doubt that one person’s cliché is another person’s erudite phrase, but how to handle clichés in your writing deserves careful consideration.

Technically, a cliché is a phrase that was once considered meaningful or novel but which loses its original meaning or effect through overuse. Or, as Salvador Dali put it: “The first man to compare a young woman’s cheeks to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.”

Many problems with written clichés stem from the fact that in spoken English there are numerous common and convenient linguistic shortcuts we all use without thought. On a busy Friday afternoon at work, if a colleague asks you the best way to drive out of the town, it’s natural to respond with, “Well you should avoid that bridge like the plague.” Moreover, the tendency on social networking sites is to write as we speak, so in one window you are writing your current work of fiction, while in the other three you’re having nice chinwags with your friends. This kind of overlap has blurred what used to be a clear distinction between common utterances and what constituted appropriate prose. Continue reading “Avoid clichés like the plague?”