To Cliché or Not to Cliché

© 2008 Tracy Crump

I love clichés. Editors don’t. I don’t know what’s wrong with those people. I would give them a piece of my mind, but I guess I’d better let sleeping dogs lie.

The Microsoft Works dictionary describes a cliché as an “overused expression; a phrase or word that has lost its original effectiveness or power from overuse.” Clichés may compare things (She’s as pretty as a picture) or impart a crumb of wisdom (An apple a day keeps the doctor away). They are the everyday expressions we’ve grown up with and express exactly the right sentiment for the occasion.

Clichés often originate from great literature. I once started a list of common sayings from the Bible and was surprised by how much of our everyday speech stems from scripture. Many of the truisms attributed to Shakespeare actually came from the Bible.

So why don’t editors like clichés? Jan Karon has made a mint off them in her Mitford series. But as people like to tell me, “You’re not Jan Karon.”

Clichés tend to be stale and hackneyed. Editors (and readers) like writing that is fresh and original. By articulating our thoughts and feelings in unique and creative ways, we give our readers new glasses through which to view the world. We can do this by altering a cliché (as in the title of this article) or by making new comparisons (Her welcoming personality made me feel good inside—like a stack of warm pancakes on a Saturday morning.) Anyway, you get the idea.

Try to find imaginative ways of expressing yourself and one day your words may become the next generation’s cliché.

Tracy Crump has published more than 100 articles, devotionals, and short stories in publications such as Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian, Journey, Pray!, ParentLife, and Thirteen of her stories have appeared in anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Crump serves as conference faculty for American Christian Writers, Kentucky Christian Writers, and Southeast Christian Writers and moderates an online critique group. She is a 2008 C.L.A.S.S. graduate and was named 2009 Writer of the Year at the Memphis ACW Conference.


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