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What Is a Cliché

And Why Should You Avoid Them?


A cliché is a phrase or expression that is so overused that it becomes annoying. Most clichés begin life as very clever expressions. The first time around, they convey a distinct message in a very funny way—and that makes them repeatable. After too much use, however, they just become corny.

Clichés should be avoided in your academic writing because they tend to make our work sound amateurish. Why? Clichés are a lazy. They convey a very specific message that everyone understands, but they do so in a very unimaginative way.

For example, the following trite expressions may convey your feelings about a particular subject you’re writing about, but they’re guaranteed to make your reader “roll his eyes.”

  • It made my blood boil
  • That rubbed me the wrong way
  • My eyes were glazing over
  • This pushes all my buttons

You may use clichés without realizing it, so it is a good idea to keep an eye out for tired and overused phrases as you proofread.

Examples of clichés

  • Don’t get your nose out of shape.
  • Don’t get bent out of shape.
  • The teacher chewed me out.
  • It’s driving me up the wall.
  • That burned me up.
  • He’s wound up tight.
  • He was mad as a wet hen.
  • His goose was cooked.
  • She was in a fix.
  • He was in a pinch.
  • She was on the spot.
  • She likes to toot her own horn.
  • That was easy as pie.
  • That was pretty hard to swallow.
  • He was grasping at straws.
  • She was flying by the seat of her pants.
  • It got under my skin.
  • My skin was crawling.
  • I was pinning all my hopes on a win.
  • There was a glimmer of hope in his eye.
  • They couldn’t see eye to eye.
  • There was a little give and take.
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