Need a good writing tip? Avoid cliches like the plague. Well, that’s a pretty obvious one, but even less conspicuous cliches should be skipped in college essays.
What exactly is a cliché? Cliches are a convenient, if not lazy, writing tool. They are phrases and expressions that are so overused that they’ve become annoying. The problem is that they often “feel right” because they concisely communicate a writer’s message. It’s a lot easier for a student to write “I left my comfort zone when I ….” than it is to try to describe what it felt like to do something that he/she doesn’t ordinarily do.
Students know enough not to use cliches, but have a hard time identifying them. Here are some examples of trite, unimaginative expressions that rub readers the wrong way: (yes, that’s a cliché) • He’s wound up tight. • He was in a pinch. • Don’t get bent out of shape. • 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 made my blood boil
• My eyes were glazing over
• It got under my skin.
• My skin was crawling
• The teacher chewed me out.
• It’s driving me up the wall.
• This pushes all my buttons
• Don’t get your nose out of shape.
• I was pinning all my hopes on a win.
• There was little give and take.
• That burned me up.
How to identify and avoid cliches?
When editing your essay, question any comparison or image you’ve used. Cliches can sneak in when we try to be descriptive. Ask yourself if the phrase is one that you’ve heard frequently on television or in casual conversation? Forgo the familiar and be creative–but beware, if you use the thesaurus make sure the word you choose makes sense.
Here is a small sampling of some of the most offensive and most frequently used clichés in college essays:
• Expanding my horizons
• The big picture
• Less is more
• All walks of life
• There was a glimmer of hope in his eye.
• They couldn’t see eye to eye.
• Never a dull moment
• Writing was on the wall
• Think outside the box
• At the end of the day
• When life gives you lemons
The bottom line is, avoid them like the plague!