Monday, June 7, 2010

Clichés

As stated in the General Grammar Tips blog, you should avoid slang terminology in your writing. By this, I mean avoid clichés and any sayings that can have more than one meaning.

It can be difficult to locate sayings in your own paper, which is why it is important to have someone else proofread your paper before you turn it in. A fresh look at the paper will be helpful in catching common mistakes and the use of clichés.


A cliché is defined as a trite or obvious remark. This definition can be misleading because the remarks are not always obvious. Sometimes there are sayings that we say to our friends and families so often that they seem like common sense. However, if you were to say it to a stranger or someone from a different country, it may not make complete sense.



Avoid slang terminology. Imagine writing a paper for someone from a different country. That person may not be familiar with slang terms that are used in conversational language.

Example 1: Mark knew how hard it was to get clean after being addicted to drugs for 5 years.

Example 2: Julie was a typical girl next door, and everyone loved being around her.

Example 3: My grandfather was out there, so we didn’t stay very long, in case he was going to do something crazy.

Get clean should have been exchanged with become sober so that it was clear for the reader.

Instead of using girl next door to describe Julie, her personality traits should have been listed or defined. Not everyone understands what this slang term means, and people could have different definitions for it. Also, using the phrase out there to describe someone that is mentally unstable would be confusing for a reader that was unfamiliar with this terminology. Be sure to make your writing more formal to the point that it could be translated into another language and still be understood.



Take into consideration that clichés are commonly used because they are so well at describing situations. It can be difficult to come up with a different word or phrase to get your description across because you're so used to using the clichés. That's why it is important to be very close to your thesaurus and have it handy when you're going over your first draft to eliminate the clichés.

Example 1: When it rains, it pours, which is why you have to be prepared for difficult times in life.

Example 2: It's not rocket science to figure out that our country's leaders are struggling to manage the economy.

Example 3: Since our camera broke, the bottom line is this: We need to hire a professional photographer because when life gives you lemons, you have to make lemonade.

These examples make it clear that overusing clichés in writing can be tiresome for the reader, and they won't make your essay stand out from the rest. Professors will be impressed when they read a paper that doesn't use clichés, especially when the authors goes the extra mile to think outside the box and come up with new descriptions as alternatives to these obvious remarks.



Visit the following websites for more help on this topic:
  1. University of Richmond Writing Center gives an excellent example and helpful tips on how to avoid clichés in writing.
  2. About.com gives an extensive list of common clichés to help you pick them out in your writing.
  3. Ezine Articles tackles clichés in creative writing. They mention how to use clichés in dialogue and how to write your first draft of a creative piece.