W.S.U. Writing Center

Clichés are the old coins of language: phrases that once made a striking impression but have since been rubbed smooth by repeated handling. Clichés are tempting to use because they can quickly fill out a sentence, and because many of them are figures of speech that seem colorful, however faded their color may be.

To spot a cliché, read the first half of the phrase and then ask yourself if you know how it ends. If you do, it is a cliché, and you should not use it.

Pretty as a

beat around the

selling like

cool as a

avoid like the



hot cakes



A cliché is an analogy characterized by its overuse. It has been overused to the point that its sole function is to mark its user as a lazy thinker.

Types of Clichés

Worn out phrases (including tired similes, metaphors, and idioms)

black as night

the depths of despair

the crack of dawn

to the bitter end

gone but not forgotten

wouldn't be caught dead

broad daylight

crystal clear

on a silver platter

under the weather

Inflated phrases


as a matter of fact

along the lines of

due to the fact that

by means of

in the final analysis


in fact





Overused ideas in writing

Dogs always know who the bad guy is and will bark at him

There will be an evil twin

Bad guys always set their bomb with ample time for the good guy to defuse it

The worst offense you can be guilty of is to use clichés in your writing. One cliché can make your artistic efforts all seem without value.

Links to more information on clichés: