Clichés: Tried and True, or Tired and Trite?

Clichés: Tried and True, or Tired and Trite?

As you create content for your website, are you relying on clichés to do the heavy lifting? We all are tempted to use a cliché occasionally because it may come to us naturally when writing: a pre-set phrase that fits the situation. When we overuse clichés, though, we detract from our message by signalling to readers that there’s nothing fresh or special about what we have to say.

A cliché is an expression that, when it was first said, was fresh and original but, through overuse, has lost impact and any claim to novelty. Whoever first came up with the admonition to think outside the box was likely considered clever and creative. Now, however, the expression is thought to be a trite catchphrase reserved for motivational speakers and management consultants.

Readers can find clichés annoying. They may consider clichéd text not just dull, but disrespectful. Clichés can create the impression that you’re unmotivated and not really interested in your subject matter. If you’re not going to bother telling readers something in a fresh way, they conclude, they’ll just move on.

So how do you spot a cliché? The best way to identify a cliché is to give it the predictability test. If you know how a phrase will end before you finish reading it, chances are it’s a cliché. If you think “true” when you see tried and; if the word “bud” springs to mind when you read nip it, then it might be time to replace the phrase.

What do you replace the cliché with? Use simple words that will aid readability and make it easier for your readers to understand your meaning. Remember, Internet readers are scanners. They want the gist of your message to be clear; they don’t want to waste time reading hackneyed phrases.

If the cliché had played-out cousins, they would be the closely related Internet meme and the television trope. Such phrases enjoy transitory popularity, a popularity that may have crested by the time you add them to your content. If you include pop-culture expressions such as epic fail and hot mess in your writing, keep in mind that even the hippest catchphrase has an expiration date, and may have already Rickrolled into oblivion.

You don’t have to banish the cliché until the cows come home, but taking a watchful approach will make your content clearer, stronger and more interesting to read.



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