A cliche is a phrase that is so overused that it’s become meaningless. Using cliches makes you seem boring, uncreative, and lazy.
The first step to eliminating cliches is identifying them. If you’re using a phrase that you’ve heard before, it’s likely a cliche. You can also search for a cliche here.
Cliches can be long:
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The grass is always greener on the other side.
Once upon a time (did you notice that?), these phrases were meaningful, witty, and descriptive. But their popularity has worn away their charm.
Once you’ve spotted a cliche in your writing, think about what it means and how you can express that meaning in a unique way.
Cliched: Erin used to write by the book, but now she lets freedom ring.
Not cliched: Erin used to fastidiously follow grammar “rules”. Now she embraces the freedom of creative writing: splitting infinitives and starting sentences with conjunctions whenever she wants.
The second sentence is more descriptive; it specifically explains how Erin’s writing has changed, rather than just giving a vague idea that it’s become more freer.
Once in a blue moon, such as when you’re writing about cliches, it’s okay to use a cliche. Make sure that your writing is informal, since cliches are worst in formal writing, and then consider why you want to use a cliche.
Perhaps the best use of cliches is the ironic cliche. If you’re writing about marketing, you can turn around the cliche “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” by showing how much brand names matter.
The problem with cliches is that they’re uninteresting. But if you can make them interesting, then you don’t have to avoid them like the plague. Okay, okay, I’ll stop my cliches now.