Clichés, especially in formal writing, can suggest lazy and unoriginal thinking, which damages your credibility in the mind of the reader. Overused and overfamiliar phrases can also irritate the reader, which is something you don't want to do.
On the other hand, some people like clichés as a natural form of expression; a cliché to me might, to you, be a succinct or pithy way of putting things.
Even so, I want to suggest some potential plain English alternatives to some of the most overused phrases or clichés — so that we may think twice about the best way to express ourselves and persuade our readers.
Tip: If you are serious about improving your writing and avoiding clichés, then Denise and I highly recommend you try the popular editing software StyleWriter by Editor Software. Click StyleWriter for details*
List of Clichés and Plain English Alternatives
across the board Be more specific. For example, write school-wide, company-wide, or whatever.
as it turns out Delete or try apparently
at one's earliest convenience Try soon or now
at the end of the day Delete or try ultimately
beyond a joke Try not funny or a serious matter
bone of contention Try issue or point of dispute
by the same token Try similarly
drop in the ocean Try negligible
the fact of the matter Delete or try the fact
few and far between Try rare, scarce, or seldom
for a start Delete or try first
hard and fast Try strict or fixed
in an ideal world Try ideally
in the final analysis Delete or try ultimately
in this day and age Try today
last but not least Delete or try lastly or finally
the long and the short of it Delete or try crux or gist
needless to say Delete (if it's needless to say, then why say it?) or try clearly or obviously
neither here nor there Try unimportant or irrelevant
nothing if not Delete or try very
only time will tell I have read too many articles and essays that end with "Only time will tell". Avoid this cliché any way you can.
part and parcel Try part
see eye to eye Try agree or concur
shed light on Try explain or clarify
to coin a phrase Think twice before coining a phrase. You probably do not want to be coining phrases in a formal essay unless you have a particularly original or clever way of putting something; if you do have a clever or original expression that puts a matter succinctly or forcefully, then do you really need to signal its cleverness by introducing the expression with "to coin a phrase"?
vast majority Try most or almost all
when all is said and done Delete or try finally or ultimately
If you want to easily avoid clichés, then we highly recommend you download the popular editing software StyleWriter by Editor Software. StyleWriter will automatically check your essay or article for clichés and suggest plain English alternatives. Click StyleWriter for details.
- Michael Munro, Chambers Cliches and How to Avoid Them (2005)
*Denise and I recommend only products that we have tried and tested. These include StyleWriter. We have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of StyleWriter because we are happy to endorse that software.