Writing Tip~I Love Clichés

Silence and Thoughts

Writing Tips


I almost called myself Daisy for this tip because I’m embarrassed to admit: I love clichés. They seem to go down like ice cream or cool water whichever you like best.

A cliché can be a word, a phrase, or an idea. Many clichés come from the Bible and Shakespeare’s writing. It’s called a cliché because it’s considered old, overused, hackneyed. All my writing teachers, whether in books or in classes, tell me clichés are not acceptable. Okay. I don’t want to use them all the time, or even hear them all the time. But, you have to admit; they make instant pictures in your mind and explain things that could take a lot more words to explain. Sometimes, they’re funny. Those are usually the ones that come from just plain folks, such as: busier than a one-armed paperhanger, slick as a whistle.

There are ways to get around the no clichés rule. For one, you may allow them to come from an appropriate character’s mouth. Jean used a cliché in my new novel, Clear Spring. In an email to her daughter, she says, “Forewarned is forearmed.” It means, if you know what’s coming, you might be able to protect yourself.

Other ways  to use them is in casual writing such as emails and personal memoir…blogs, too, depending on the blog.  A cliché may be useful as a launching pad by changing the words, but keeping the idea.

In English, we have something called idiom. I think of idiom as a certain way of conveying an idea. Don’t we usually say soldiers and sailors, or apples and oranges? If you switch them around, it’s going to interrupt your reader for a tick. You don’t want to do that if you can help it. Idiom and clichés are so much alike that I can’t tell the difference, but on www.mavenrandomhouse.com, The Maven says, “Words and phrases (idiom and cliché) become popular for a reason, and judicious use of them should not be entirely discouraged.” There. That takes a load off. Does it float your boat at all?

Happy writing,






  1. You are all funny. I liked you a lot. I’m so glad I’m not alone in my angst over cliches. Happy to have met you. Thanks for the comments.

  2. My dear, I think cliches are fabulous too! 🙂

  3. I’ll confess: I like sneaking them in too. Yes, you need to be careful to make sure they fit (and don’t stick out like a sore thumb – smile) but an all out no-cliche-rule? I think it can backfire. I’ve read some so-called creative non-cliches that end up just coming across as pretentious. Used sparingly and to create the right mood, I think a cliche can be okay. Enjoyed the post. Thank you! 🙂

  4. GUILTY AS CHARGED here. And dangit, I will use them to my heart’s content… They’re kind of like my ace in the hole, if you will… and you know, if people (and editors are people too) want to look on the bright side of life, they’re simply going to have to realize this is not a contest against wits… we are all in this together… All for one and one for all among we writers – right?
    BAHAHAHAHAHA!!! How many did you spot in my reply?

  5. I absolutely love them, and use them whenever humanly possible! LOL

  6. I enjoy a good cliché’ or idiom when I write but have found those who edit me don’t seem to care for them one iota. One editor actually used a red highlighter to mark each and every one of them to show me the error of my ways. Really? He couldn’t just underline or cross-out the offending text? So how does an author explain “between a rock and a hard place” when writing? Easy. It was a conundrum where either choice was difficult. Oh, yeah, that made it much clearer and added the impact. BTW, I left the cliché’ in — it was MY book and edits are merely suggestions by another. Cliché’ rule!

    • You hit on two things in that comment. I agree with both. I’d like to say how much I empathize when a beta reader seems to be unnecessarily unkind. There’s always a way to put things in a plesant way, as you say. the taste of attack just lasts too long and goes too deep.

  7. Cliché’s are difficult not to put in, but sometimes they’re a perfect fit. They can definitely set the scene and situation quickly and the reader will understand without tripping up. But… for some reason, someone said “cliché’s are bad.” It’s almost like a cliché itself.

  8. Oh my goodness! I love them too! And I always feel like it’s a dirty little secret. 🙂

  9. I use them sometimes, unknowingly, and my editor is good at picking them out. I much prefer not to if I can, but agree they come easily to me when writing the first draft, and I re-write them in subsequent ones.

    Enjoyed your post,

    • That’s a great idea–to go ahead and use your cliches in your stream of consciousnes first draft. They probably don’t look nearly as attractive the second time through and that gives us the imetus to describe more creatively. If we won’t let ourelves write easily in the first draft we might not ever need a second one.

  10. I love cliché’s too, but I’ll tell you – my editor calls me out on them ALL THE TIME when I put them in a book. She makes me take them out and explain the situation differently – like you, I think a cliché sets the scene and situation quickly and efficiently. Nice post!

    • I know. I even like to use cliches in my poetry sometimes which is a big no, no. Sometimes I believe cliches link us together because they are familiar to us all. They give you a sort of warm-fuzzy, belonging feeling.

Now it's your turn. Tell us what you think.

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