After consulting multiple dictionaries and word guides, it was difficult to find an English word that suited my purposes and started with X. (No joke, there is not one word that starts with X on Merriam-Webster’s list of 3,000 English core words.)
No matter how hard I looked, I kept coming back to “xylophone” — the X word most of us learned as children from our alphabet books.
And the ubiquity of xylophone led me to think of a related topic: clichés.
Much like the prevalence of xylophones in our childhood memories, clichés are everywhere. And that’s why we have to avoid them.Since clichés are a common element of conversation, it’s easy to let them slip into our writing.
So why should you avoid them?
- It’s clearer. Clichés are rarely the most forthright way to say something. Say exactly what you mean, rather than relying on a phrase that could be open to interpretation.
- It’s more original. Clichés have been around so long that we all know them. Using a simpler phrase, or a more inventive one, makes your writing more interesting to read.
- It’s more concise. Almost always, it takes more time to say a cliché than to state its meaning. Use less words, and avoid a tired phrase.
How do you avoid clichés?
- When writing, try to keep your language clear and original.
- When revising, be on the lookout for phrases, metaphors, and similes, many of which are clichés.
- Get someone to read your work who hates clichés, and can spot them easily.
- Use Cliché Finder, a tool that spots clichés for you.
Even though it can be hard to do, you’ll sound better without common phrases cluttering your writing. Avoid whatever clichés are your “xylophone” — and think up something new! Who knows — the next phrase you think up yourself could be the new cliché.