Human speech is filled with shortcuts as we try to communicate meaning in the quickest and clearest manner. Sometimes we won't register that we just used a cliché, sometimes we use clichés on purpose because we don't know what else to say.
However, nothing is more jarring for a reader than coming across a clichéd phrase in a writer’s work.
Common cliches phrases in writing
Baptism by fire
Better safe than sorry
Bide your time
Burst your bubble
Crack of dawn
It is a dog eat dog world
Every fibre of my being
Easier said than done
Few and far between
I beg to differ
In the thick of it
In your dreams
It goes without saying
Jump to conclusions
My blood boiled
My heart skipped a beat
My heart was in my throat
No pain, no gain
Start from scratch
You’re the boss
What do I do if I write a cliché?
The best thing to do when you catch yourself using cliches is to take it as an opportunity to freshen up your writing.
1. Delete the cliché and write something fresh or closer to what you mean to say, for example:
Before: Jane had forgiven Rose for stealing. The situation was water under the bridge.
After: Jane forgave Rose for stealing. She let the hurt pass with forgiveness.
2. Use the cliché, but subvert expectations, for example:
Before: Blackwall hated Elena. The woman was a thorn in his side.
After: Blackwall hated Elena. The woman was a thorn in his balls.
This can be used to show character; Blackwall is aware that he's using a cliche but subverts it at the last moment. By substituting "balls" for "side" we see that his character is crass and unrefined.
3. You can use a cliché for comic effect or to help with humour. If the character, or writing, is self-aware that a cliché has been used, it can add to the characterisation. For example:
"Don't worry, I'll keep your secret," Dad grinned in the embarrassing way which only fathers could. His expression turned into a deadly serious mask of mockery. "It's like I always say: you're the boss."
"Dad," I sighed, quickly looking around to make sure no one saw. "You're such a dork!"
What NOT to do
Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo is filled with cliches which weaken the writing. Just look at this page .