X is for Xylophone, and Avoiding Clichés

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.

Do you have a method for avoiding cliches? do you make exceptions for some cliches in your writing?



7 thoughts on “X is for Xylophone, and Avoiding Clichés

  1. Who knew there was a Cliche Finder?! It’s funny how we say them all the time in our everyday conversations, but in books, they stick out like a sore thumb (cliche intended 😉 ). At least, that’s how I feel. I think readers expect writers to be more creative and really hate it when they come across them in books. I try to avoid to them in writing, but they can easily slip in. Great use of X, by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, talking versus writing require different standards. I think a lot of people don’t realize that until they become writers. For instance, my friends will sometimes (jokingly) harass me when I make grammar mistakes in everyday conversation, since I’m known for being meticulous with my writing, but conversation is totally different, and allows a lot of things that are frowned upon in formal writing. 🙂 Blogs are an interesting hybrid: both conversational and formal. I’m still navigating that whole “voice” thing on my blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Cliche finder! That’s pretty awesome. I tend to write what first comes to find in the first draft, and then go hunt those cliches down and try to put my own twist on the expressions. It makes such a difference to the narrative.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree! I’m all about getting the story out in round one. I try to keep away from cliches even then but I don’t really knock them out until revision. And that tool is super cool! I love it!


  3. Oh I pressed hit comment too early. I think that’s especially the case in Fantasy stories, where by avoiding cliches you can create expressions that work for a given world and deepen a reader’s experience of said world.

    Liked by 1 person

Tell me what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s