Friday, September 3, 2010

R.I.P Cliches

Cliches are an editor’s nightmare. Actually they are everyone’s nightmare. I  have nothing personal against clichés, but,  I really, really hate them. Whenever I come across the common cliches my hands itch to scratch them out.

 Few months back, a writing friend I had befriended  on one of the social networking sites sent me few pages of her story.  She just wanted my feedback. The more writer friends I am making, the more politically correct I am getting. I hate to criticize someone’s work as I detest ruffling feathers, or, bruising egos. I would hate it if someone criticized my work.

Her writing was riddled with clichés. She is a veteran writer probably writing even before I was born. I will not talk of the clichés infesting her work, but I will give you few examples of clichés that can me modified.

I always feel there are better ways of saying things. Instead  of saying  “the color of her dress was  as green as grass”  we can always say  “ her dress was  the color of freshly watered grass.” This description instantly creates an image of   swaying grass with drops of water clinging to it.

 Another  cliché  that really irks me  is  “her eyes were  blue as the sky,” we can say this in a different way  “her eyes were the color of a cloudless summer sky.” There is an instant visual of  an endless blue sky devoid of clouds.

A cliché  I detest is “ her hair was as black as the night.” There is always a better description, we just have to exercise our  creative cells.  Isn’t the description “ her hair was dark as sin, her hair was the color of melted dark chocolate, her hair was the color of a cold winter’s night,” way better. 
 “Far from the madding crowd,” is a cliché I have come across several times. Isn't  “far from the dust and pollution of the city,” or  “ far from city noises,” a slightly better way of describing  the same thing?

 The stereotypical clichés should actually be cremated. Cliches should be given a royal burial. There is no place for them in a good piece of writing. Cliches are responsible for pieces of writing  that come under the heading of  ‘ Bad Writing.’

As writers we are supposed to see the unusual in the usual stuff, to see a thing differently is our forte. And to describe it in an unusual  way is what we specialize in. Our descriptions  conjure vivid images in our readers’ minds. They literally transport them to  other and different worlds.  It’s our moral duty towards our readers to give them different descriptions.

Is there any cliché you particularly detest? Is there another  and better way of describing it? We all would love to read about the clichés you abhor.


  1. Hello Rachna, wonderful post. A cliche I hate is " as good as gold." We can say it in a different way "as good as an angel."

  2. This is a great post, Rachna. It would make a great writing exercise just to start listing every stale cliche one can think of.

    "Teeth like pearls" comes to mind for me. "Eyes like saphires," is another. (It's probably wise to stay away from jewelry when describing appearances.)

    I even think that sometimes simple description works better than metaphor: something like "damp blonde hair" instead of "damp strands of gold"; or "deep brown eyes" instead of "eyes like dark pools". (Comparing eyes to pools was probably good once upon a time, but I've seen it a lot, so that it doesn't feel fresh anymore.)

  3. This is a must read post for everyone. Cliche's are killing writers and they don't realize it half the time. I do thin they make interesting titles though.

  4. I detest all cliches and I will root them out when I find them. If I find them in my crit partners work I am ruthles about highlighting them. They need to go. Thank goodness my crit partners hardly ever use them and if they do it is very unintentional and they have simply missed it. I always appreciate the same honest feedback about my work. I have a small group of people that I feed back to and who feed back to me. We are all honest. No thoughts of bruising egos. We all want to get better. I only read for people who can take honesty and will give honestly in return. I hope those you read for appreciate you spotting their cliches cause you are doing them a MASSIVE favor. Edits won't be nice about rooting them out. I'd rather my crit partners spot the mistakes then say an agent that says no because of them.

  5. The more I read and write, the more I'm attuned to cliches and I shudder whenever I find them. My first draft is riddled with them because I wanted to write fast and not edit. Now I'm up to the editing will be intersting, lol.

  6. More writers are wasting away because of cliches than I care to say. *horror* And they all need to read this post. :)

  7. Good point! I think it is something very important to be aware of. Like your suggestions for finding good alternatives.
    Have a good weekend!

  8. To quote another writer, 'avoid cliches like the plague!'

  9. Wonderful post! Cliches really ruin a good piece of writing. Thanks for reminding us of that!

  10. I definitely try to eliminate clichés in my writing, but I must say I couldn’t come up with such poetic alternatives as you. Thanks for the tips!

  11. Great post. Yes, avoid cliches like the plague, make them like water on the bridge, by all means. LOL

    There is one exception to this rule. Have you ever read Neil Gaiman's "Anansi Boys?" It's an AWESOME book, both engrossing and funny. The villain speaks in cliches. At first, it jars. But he does it everytime he speaks and instead of annoying the reader, it pulls the reader in more. We want to see what cliche he'll use next. That must have been so much fun to write, but also a bit of a workout.

  12. Your descriptions were amazing! I especially loved what you did with the dark hair cliches. Awesome.