A cliché or is an expression, phrase, or sentence that has lost its originality and impact because of overuse.


A cliché is often a colorful interpretation of an idea or thought, often drawn from everyday experiences, that relies on analogy or exaggeration for effect. When it’s used sparingly and with intent, it often succeeds. However, using clichés too often is generally thought as a sign of inexperience or a lack of originality.

Clichés in writing

A cliché can be used as a shortcut when a writer is too hurried or lazy to create a new or quick description of something. People often use one when speaking, to aid in communication—coming up with something that all parties instantly recognize (see the list below).

However, clichés often don’t add anything positive to a work. Instead, they weaken it. By using someone else’s words, clichés make the text feel stale. And worse yet, the cliché may not fit the context.

Professional writers should create bold new phrases that draw readers into your work. One of the strongest tools for making an author’s writing original is the choice of words. So, mixing common, trite, and tired expressions with fresh thoughts is counterproductive.

Finally, because clichés naturally roll off the tongue or pen, writers need watch for them when they’re do their initial edits after completing a work. The ones that add strength to the text should be kept in, but those that add nothing but empty words should be replaced with strong phrases that build the context.


Because clichés are so easily recognized and understood, they can be easy and fun to use. However, readers who see too many clichés in a work may think that the writer is unoriginal. So, writers should use them sparingly.

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Some common clichés

This list only scratches the surface. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of clichés in the English language.

Phrase clichés:

    • a diamond in the rough
    • a dime a dozen
    • a matter of time
    • a waste of time
    • alive and kicking
    • all for one, and one for all
    • all that glitters is not gold
    • all’s well that ends well
    • any port in a storm
    • as brave as a lion
    • as clever as a fox
    • as meek as a lamb
    • as old as the hills
    • at the speed of light
    • avoid like the plague
    • between the devil and the deep blue sea
    • cat got your tongue?
    • cute as a button
    • don’t cry over spilled milk
    • easy as pie
    • every cloud has a silver lining
    • fit as a fiddle
    • frightened to death
    • gut-wrenching pain
    • had nerves of steel
    • head over heals
    • head over heels in love
    • heart-stopping fear
    • in a jiffy
    • in the nick of time
    • just a matter of time
    • kiss and make up
    • lasted an eternity
    • laughter is the best medicine
    • live and learn
    • lost track of time
    • love you more than life itself
    • only time will tell
    • opposites attract
    • painted oneself into a corner
    • sadder but wiser
    • scared out of my (or one’s) wits
    • stay the course
    • strong as an ox
    • tail between his/her legs
    • the calm before the storm
    • the time of my life
    • the writing (is) on the wall
    • time flies
    • time heals all wounds
    • tip of the iceberg
    • ugly as sin
    • weak as a kitten
    • what goes around comes around
    • without a care in the world
    • woke up on the wrong side of the bed

Sentence clichés:

    • Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
    • Age before beauty.
    • Every cloud has a silver lining.
    • Haste makes waste.
    • Read between the lines.
    • They all lived happily ever after.
    • We’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing with you.
    • When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

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