Clichés 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 clichés may slip into your writing. Reliance on clichés 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 cliché in quotation marks in order to indicate your distance from the cliché does not strengthen the sentence. If anything, it just makes weak writing more noticeable. Take notice of whether or not you use clichés. If you do, ask yourself if you could substitute more specific language for the cliché.

International Students: Avoid regional expressions. Students from Britain and the Commonwealth nations should particularly beware of using local expressions that are not used in America.

Edit these sentences to eliminate the clichés:


Drill #1.
You have to take this new fad with a grain of salt.


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

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


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

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


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

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