12 Clichés Writers Should Avoid

Writers Write is a writing resource. In this post, we include 12 clichés writers should avoid using in their writing.  

What Is A Cliché?

A cliché is ‘a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.’

When we use a cliché, our writing seems tired and it lacks creativity.  The word itself comes from the French. It means the sound of a printing plate that repeatedly prints the same thing.

Try to be more original and think about what you are writing. Synonyms for cliché include platitudes, banalities, and hackneyed phrases. Clichés tend to annoy and alienate your audience. Avoid them if you can.

[Top Tip: If you need practical help with your grammar, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.]

12 Clichés Writers Should Avoid

These are 12 of the most annoying clichés in writing:

  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.

12 Clichés All Writers Should Avoid

Which cliché annoys you more than these?

Source: Writer’s Digest/Image Source

If you enjoyed this, read:

  1. Punctuation For Beginners: What Is Punctuation?
  2. All About Parts Of Speech

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This article has 0 comments

  1. Max

    Anything that refers to something being a certain number of shades. E.g ‘ten shades of trouble’. Just reminds me of FSOG when I hear it.

  2. Brittany

    Not unlike a raging/burning inferno.

  3. Nicola

    Level the playing field

  4. Maxine

    If a book I’m reading says that someone’s face “split in a grin” or mentions “scudding clouds”. I close it immediately.

  5. Avril

    Why have people’s parents always “died in a car crash”? It lacks imagination.

  6. mrsmig

    “Bodies stacked like cordword.”
    “It was a day like any other until…”
    “it was when ______’s life changed forever.”

    And any book that begins with someone waking up, unless that person has just changed into a giant cockroach.

  7. Jesta Freak

    Lately I have been reading the phrase, “their smile didn’t reach their eyes”. I have read it in numerous books by different authors.

  8. anarchitek

    Sadly, “their smile didn’t reach their eyes” is a fact with some people. I met a guy once, in Houston in 1973, who was supposed to be a hardcore thief, someone who’d just got out of the pen at Huntsville. He’d showed up at the jobsite where I was working, with a trailer full of TVs, stereos and speakers, all top of the line stuff, fairly new, asking basement prices. Innocently, I asked, “Why are you selling this stuff?”, thinking it was his, like one of my friends might, until it dawned on me there was entirely too much stuff for one person to own. He looked at me, smiled a cold, entirely mirthless smile, and said, “I have too much, I need to get rid of some of it, and turn it into cash.” By that time, the obvious was banging at my frontal lobe, so I nodded and walked away. I wasn’t interested in buying stolen merch, but several of my buddies were, and he did a land-office business for a half hour or so.

    My best friend Gary, always on the lookout for “interesting” people, invited him to come by his place, after everyone knocked off for the day. We normally congregated at Gary’s for beers and what-not, after work, reviewing the day’s progress and planning the next day’s goals. We were a “hippie” construction outfit, working on an apartment remodel that was sure to make us all into household names. Already, we’d been featured in a Sunday Supplement article, in the Houston Chronicle, and the daily traffic past our visually arresting building had more than tripled. When I went into Gary’s little house that evening, Frank, the thief, was sitting in a prominent location at the round table we were accustomed to gathering at, regaling those already there with stories of his “experiences”, breaking into other people’s homes and apartments. He looked at me, probably remembering my awkward question that morning, and if ever a glance “threw daggers”, that one did.

    I was immediately conscious of the attention he paid as I walked in and took a seat, and that of his “bro”, an odd-looking young man with a mustache and goatee-like beard that circled his mouth, leaving his chin bare. Within moments of arriving, I was so uncomfortable I got up and left, an unusual occurrence for me, as I was in between girl friends and normally stayed at Gary’s until we decided where to get something for dinner. We’d been close friends since I’d arrived in Houston, two years earlier, and Gary helped me get a great job. I was one of the principal designers on the building, so I was always involved in whatever discussions happened at these evening get-togethers. However, I couldn’t tolerate this guy, he made my skin crawl, and every instinct cry out that he was “Dangerous”-with-a-capital-D, personally and by association. Gary asked where I was going, so I invented a social occasion, telling him I had a date I had to get going for, and left within seconds.

    The next day, I related my feelings to Gary, but it was too late. He was enamored of the guy’s criminal background, the way some people are, and reveled in the sense of danger he, too, felt. Gary thought it was “cool”, though, completely disregarding his own less-than-above-board dealings that skirted the law, and laughed off my warnings. I avoided his after-work gatherings for the rest of the week, and the weekend, where we routinely gathered to plan outings and events. Ten days later, the guy had moved on, having milked all the cash he could from the group, so I was once again able to participate, but forty years later, I still recall that man’s evil eyes, the way he watched everything going on, and never once allowed a smile to “reach his eyes”.

  9. Steph Vermeulen

    Ticks all the boxes – a cliche that makes me crazy.

  10. Iain Pattison

    from all walks of life…

  11. Rosemary Molloy

    “Back in the day….” Bah!

  12. Sandra Nachlinger

    Emotional roller coaster. Sigh of relief.

  13. Ashley Brodie

    When any character is described as having ‘eyes like pools of […]’. Just, yuck. Such an ugly simile.

  14. Glenda

    Saying or using, if the shoe was on the other foot, always bothered me.

  15. Chris

    That was a great read, anarchitek!

  16. Chris

    I know a couple people who hate cliche, haha.

  17. Juliet

    The vast majority – what’s wrong with “most”?

  18. Victoria

    I just spit out my coffee reading your cockroach comment, mrsmig. I needed a laugh. Thanks.

  19. kikip

    Everything happens for a reason is a cliche that I hate the most. Well duh, everything does happen for a reason.

  20. Gloria

    BEGS the question. (Most people don’t even know what it means.)

  21. Kathy Aitken

    ‘At the end of the day’ is probably the one I hate most. ‘What day?’ I feel like asking. ‘Today? Or perhaps tomorrow?’ Also glad I don’t work in an office where apparently they ‘park’ ideas they don’t want to think about just yet. Then there’s the dreaded ‘moment in time’: where else is a moment going to exist?

  22. Randy

    crazy as a loon, date with destiny, dumb as a brick to name a few

  23. Pam

    Without further ado.
    Needless to say (then they say it anyway).

  24. Diana Douglas

    It is what it is…

  25. Joyce

    Any time my students start a story with “One day,” they are in trouble.


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