Clichés, overused words and phrases, should be eliminated from your writing. “They are boring and abused and about as fun to read as the instruction manual of a Dustbuster,” Writer’s Digest editor Brian A. Klems warns. “Writing is supposed to be a creative process, and there’s nothing creative in rehashing some trite phrase that is so old it was probably used by Moses as he parted the Red Sea.”
Klem polled other Writer’s Digest editors and compiled a list of 12 clichés they would most like to see permanently retired. They are (in no particular order):
1. Avoid it like the plague
2. Dead as a doornail
3. Take the tiger by the tail
4. Low-hanging fruit
5. If only walls could talk
6. The pot calling the kettle black
7. Think outside the box
8. Thick as thieves
9. But at the end of the day
10. Plenty of fish in the sea
11. Every dog has its day
12. Like a kid in a candy store
As Klem notes, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
But how can writers tell when a word or expression has become a cliché? After looking at the list above, if you still can’t figure it out for yourself, it’s time to find an editor.