Cliches are overused expressions, expressions that may once have seemed colorful and powerful, but are now dull and worn out. Time, pressure, and anxiety may cause you to lose focus, and that is when cliches may slip into your writing. Reliance on cliches suggests that you are a lazy thinker. Keep them out of your essay by thinking ahead and proofreading.

WEAK: Performance in a crisis is the acid test for a leader.

FORCEFUL: Performance in a crisis is the best indicator of a leader’s abilities.

Putting a cliche in quotation marks in order to indicate your distance from the cliche does not strengthen the sentence. If anything, it just makes weak writing more noticeable. Take notice of whether or not you use cliches. If you do, ask yourself if you could substitute more specific language for the cliche.

International Students: Avoid regional expressions. Students from the U.K. and the Commonwealth nations should be particularly wary of using local expressions that are not used in America.

1. Exercises: Avoid Cliches

Edit these sentences to eliminate the cliches.

 You have to take this new fad with a grain of salt.


You need not take this new fad very seriously; it will surely pass.

2. The politician reminds me of Abraham Lincoln: He’s like a diamond in the rough.


The politician reminds me of Abraham Lincoln with his rough appearance and warm heart.

3. A ballpark estimate of the number of fans in the stadium would be 120,000.


I estimate that 120,000 fans were in the stadium.

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