Improve Your Vocabulary By Avoiding Clichés

If language is about clear communication, then perhaps a familiar expression or cliché will suffice. But if language is also about persuasion, then clichés can work against you.

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.


*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.


Last modified on Tuesday, 17 November 2015 05:00
English Language Skills (Troy)

English Language Skills (Troy)

I have a law degree, I've run an award-winning business, and I am a published author.

My most popular book is Funny English Errors and Insights: Illustrated.

My new book is The Funny Dictionary.

I have a particular interest in vocabulary improvement and speed reading.

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