Avoid the Use Clichés

So many blog posts and articles have been written about the overuse of clichés and why they should be avoided. Even writing and journalism courses give the same advice – ‘Avoid the use of clichés. They are stale and boring. Writers are supposed to be creative, say what you have to say differently’. Still we see their use everywhere. Their power is such that no matter how hard we try, they seem to creep up through whichever way they can. The reason for this may be that we are so used to hearing them, that they inadvertently enter our writing; or they are used for their brevity and precision – they say so much in so few words. Whatever the reason, the rule remains – avoid the use of clichés when writing, especially in business writing. An executive who uses these terms is not only regarded as a bad leader, but a non-creative force as well. The impression is – if you cannot be creative with words, you cannot be creative in business.

Some of the most common clichés used in business are:

  • at the end of the day
  • win-win situation
  • bottom line
  • thinking outside the box
  • wealth of experience
  • low hanging fruit
  • in a nutshell
  • put all the eggs in one basket
  • giving 100%
  • strike while the iron is hot
  • no brainer
  • turn-key solution
  • beat a dead horse
  • everything from soup to nuts
  • leaps and bounds

The list is endless.

Besides sounding boring, clichés have a disadvantage, too. In today’s world, when business has gone global and letters and e-mails have to be written to foreign countries, there are chances of these terms not being understood.  Unless the person reading the clichés is fluent in English and understands the implied meanings, it is best not to use them. But how can you tell if the person will understand them? You can’t. So, this means – don’t use clichés.

According to a recent research, the most used business cliché is “at the end of the day”. Why do you think this is the most used? Do you think some other term should have topped the list? If so, which one?

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7 Responses

  1. Some of these I’ve never heard of. O.o

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  2. Hi, I enjoyed your post although I don’t completely agree with you. To quote you: “Unless the person reading the clichés is fluent in English and understands the implied meanings, it is best not to use them”. I’ve been teaching English as a Second Language in a European country for over ten years and have built up quite a wealth of experience. An idiom is not always a cliché and a cliché is not always an idiom. Your list is 100% idioms, which does not mean they are not cliché. I believe that idioms are integral to the English language as they most likely are to every language. Idioms are pre-programmed statements that speak volumes in few words. “It’s raining cats and dogs” is a decent amateur weather report as well as “giving someone the boot” is an ample, if not harsh description of the firing process. When teaching English, I will designate specific class hours to idioms, or as you call them, “clichés”. They are especially important in Business English courses. When reading articles from the New York Times or the Financial Times, students will often inquire about the use of your “clichés “. I don’t believe that every author and journalist should restrain from using the fantastic wealth of idioms in order to please a small, non-fluent percentage of their audiences. I don’t want to step on your toes, but as an English teacher, avid writer and reader, I disagree with your statement. How about another post? Perhaps one where you address metaphorical cliché. Keep up the writing 🙂

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    • Thank you, EP, for your very thorough comment. You are absolutely right – an idiom is not always a cliché and a cliché is not always an idiom. You are also right in saying that my list is that of idioms, but they have now become clichés, and clichés are best avoided in any writing, especially business writing. I find it quite interesting how different writers and teachers can have different views. I, too, am a writer and teacher – just like you – but my view and experience on the use clichés greatly differs from yours.

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  3. I agree that writers should try to avoid those business cliches. The problem is that they have become stale and meaningless through overuse. It is much more helpful for the writer decide what he/she really thinks and then write that. It’s a kind of laziness to use business cliches.

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  4. There’s this guy named Joel Naroff who does these frequent commentaries on a local radio station. Each time as he’s ending his reports, he says “In a nutshell…blah blah blah” It drives me crazy because he calls himself a business professional, yet when he speaks that glaring mistake, I no longer view him as a professional.

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  5. “The impression is – if you cannot be creative with words, you cannot be creative in business.” I think that is excellent advice considering a world where one word seems to suffice for more descriptive words. Words like, amazing, fabulous, awesome, etc. I do believe the key is to guard against over-usage and rather to manipulate the clichés, or set the trend for another set – that in itself is creative. I’m still in my infant stages of blogging, so I find these tips useful. Thank you.

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