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Fresher Language, Better Writing: The Art of Avoiding Grammar Cliches

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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What is a cliche? In Grammar, the cliche is something like an overused phrase or a predictable sentence with a meaning that once was very insightful, full and clever. However, it was used so proficiently with time that it lost its originality and uniqueness, becoming more overrated. Using a cliche or words or clause can hamper the meaning causing a nuisance for readers to understand.

Definition Of A Cliche

According to the Collins Dictionary, cliche means “Archaic,” meaning a stereotype printing plate or an expression or idea that has become trite. 

Characteristics Of A Cliche

To understand what is a cliche better, let us look at some characteristics of a cliche given below.

  • Cliches will always have a lack of originality in the phrases or the words. We can easily identify them as a version of slang that originally was a sarcastic word. 
  • Overused and familiarity with the words is another characteristic of cliches in Grammar. TV, media, writers, readers, listeners, and stage performers in Literature are familiar with the expression. 
  • The cliche is often overused as communication by the meaning of very general or vague understanding. It fails to depict the importance and specific messages in the context while displaying the specific expression. 

Examples Of Cliche Phrases And Expressions

Here are some very typical and general phrases and expressions of cliche examples.

  1. Walking on a thin ice
  2. Icing on the cake
  3. Xoxo
  4. Love is blind
  5. It’s raining cats and dogs.
  6. Lol

Common Cliches

Cliches examples mentioned above don’t need an explanation because everyone reading and writing English knows what these phrases and expressions mean. For example, walking on thin ice is an example of the situation being critical. Similarly, we can find different versions of the same expression, such as walking on an eggshell. People have started making a new version of it because this expression is so overused that people no longer use it in modern language. Further, the genZ calls this expression “on a life support system”.

List Of Common Cliches And Their Meanings

Here are some common cliches for you as an example with their meanings. Keep on reading to explore more.

  • Barking up the wrong tree.

Meaning: blaming someone who is not at fault.

  • LOL

Meaning: lots of love/ lots of laughter

  • It’s raining cats and dogs.

Meaning: it’s raining very heavily with a thunderstorm.

  • Xoxo

Meaning: hugs and kisses

  • Time heals all wounds.

Meaning: everything is going to be okay with time.

Examples Of How To Rephrase Or Avoid Using These Cliches

You can take a look at these same cliché examples from the above context; these are rephrased in a new manner.

  • Barking up the wrong tree.

Rephrased: don’t gaslight someone for your doings.

  • LOL

Rephrased: loads of love/ load of laughter

  • It’s raining cats and dogs.

Rephrased: Floody rain.

  • Time heals all wounds.

Rephrased: It will be breezy after a thunderstorm.

Cliche Examples

Let us see more specific examples of cliches in different contexts (e.g., literature, film, advertising, etc.).

Literature example of cliche

  • Everything is fair in love and war.
  • Love conquers all.
  • Et Tu, Brutus?

Film example of cliche

  • I will never let go. “Titanic”
  • Fast and Furious “Fast and Furious- The movie”.
  • May the force be with you. – Star wars

Advertising example of cliche

  • Just do it. – Nike 
  • It’s not you; it’s me. – Common advertisement line
  • Because you’re worth it.” – L’Oréal’s slogan.

Analysis Of Why These Examples Are Considered Cliches

These phrases and expressions are known as cliche because they have surpassed their popularity all over the globe. People are using them as phrases and expressions in real-life communication. These phrases have many localised versions with the same meaning, even in different languages. Everyone knows what it means regardless of being a native English speaker.

Cliche vs Stereotypes

Stereotypes are biased opinions or ideas concerning gender, race, and nationality. A concise opinion that may or may not be true, but people or groups of particular communities tend to believe it is known as a stereotype. 

Definition Of A Stereotype

According to the Collins Dictionary, “A stereotype is a fixed general image or set of characteristics representing a particular type of person or thing, but which may not be true in reality.”

Characteristics Of A Stereotype

Here are some characteristics of a stereotype. 

  1. Everything in a stereotypical opinion is generalized without considering the uniqueness of each human being or thing.

  2. The opinions or ideas are always simplified and exaggerated.

  3. Stereotypes are formed with time; ignorance and persistence can make them never-ending and constant, making stereotypical ideas ongoing even with the evidence. 

  4. Stereotypes are the roots of bullying, unawareness, racism, inequality, etc. 

How Cliches And Stereotypes Differ From Each Other

Here are two major differences between cliches and stereotypes.

  • Stereotypes tend to be objective and generalized to people or a thing in terms of ideas and opinions. Cliches are overused phrases and expressions for daily communication that stay long enough and are overrated.

  • Cliches are mostly related to language and communication, while stereotypes are related to behavior and attitude.

Examples Of How Cliches And Stereotypes Are Used In Different Contexts

“Never underestimate the power of a common man” is a popular cliche used in an Indian film named ” Chennai Express”.

India is a poor country is a stereotype in most European countries.

In these two examples, we can clearly see how cliche is something that is mostly used in India because of a movie in context and how the stereotype is used by European countries to generalize India, not knowing that the world’s most richest person is Indian, i.e., Mukesh Ambani. 

Why Should You Avoid Cliches?

Using cliches in writing has many negative effects, such as miscommunication due to generalized terms. Not holding any specific or additional information makes the reading bland, and so on.

Benefits of using original and creative language

There are many benefits of writing in an original and creative language.

  1. It engages the reader in the writing and understands the story from a personal perspective.
  2. The reader can analyze the original and personal writing style better than a generalized concept with many confusing directions.

Negative Effects of Cliches

There are many negative impacts of using cliches in writing or speech.

For example, “love is blind” can give mixed signals for a context where a person is blindly in love with someone justifying their situation of stalking the other person who clearly said no. It’s a criminal offense that cannot be justified with the “love is blind” cliche. 

Limiting Creativity and Originality

It can also limit the creativity and originality of the writer as every writer has a personal writing sense with his writing over time. 

For example, love is blind can be rephrased more poetically, denying every kind of difference with respect to a person liking someone genuinely. 

Love is blind and does not give us any kind of specific information. But if the writer or the speaker says that love is something we do by looking ahead of differences, it gives more depth to the context. 

Perpetuating Harmful Stereotypes

Common phrases and expressions that have been around for centuries can lead up to stereotypical beliefs because the expressions and phrases used earlier can relate to historical events that are considered tragic. It was normal to use these phrases earlier, but now, out of empathy, people have stopped using them, or they are overrated. These cliches can harbor unnecessary stereotypes. 

For example, women and witches were used simultaneously around 1600 when witch hunting was popular. Women who did not behave well were labeled witches with black magic power. 

  • Good as a witch. 
  • A witch’s tongue. 

These are some cliches that are still in use in today’s language. These can perpetually harbor inequality and racism, justifying stereotypes of the 1600s.

Hindering Communication

Specific information is always missed out when using cliches because they represent a generalized idea. This creates miscommunication.

For example, “love is blind” can go a good or bad way. Looking out for someone regardless of difference is a positive implementation of the “love is blind” cliche. On the other hand, someone’s stalking because they love a person is the negative implementation of the “love is blind” cliche. While only using “love is blind” in a sentence without explaining the whole situation makes it difficult for readers to interpret the story’s direction. 

cliche infographic

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Key Takeaways

  1. Cliches are overrated words and phrases.

  2. Cliches can perpetuate stereotypes.

  3. Cliches can be found in day-to-day communication.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I avoid using cliches in my writing?

You should avoid using cliches in your writing because it creates miscommunication and is overrated.

How can I replace a cliche with more original language?

You can easily rephrase it with your own writing, poetically or creatively, by explaining the phrase in your own words. 

Are there any situations where using a cliche is acceptable?

Yes, if a cliche is used in a dialogue or a court, it can be reused.

How do I strike a balance between using original language and avoiding cliches?

One must always make notes so that they don’t use common or repetitive phrases in writing too much.

Are there cultural differences in the use of cliches?

Cliches can perpetually harbor stereotypes. Hence it can actually trigger cultural differences too.

How do cliches affect the reader's perception of the writer?

It makes the message very vague and generalized. 

What are some strategies for breaking the habit of using cliches?

Always rephrase everything in your own words to avoid using cliches as a regular habit. 

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