[Podcast] How to Spot and Eliminate Clichés in Your Writing

1 developing the writer's mindset podcast post Jun 10, 2021

By Dave Goetz and Melissa Parks

We want to pivot a bit and discuss how to spot and eliminate clichés as you write your book. Whoops, we need to eliminate "pivot" from this blog post!

A cliché is simply a word or phrase that has lost it power because of overuse. It's tired. Well-worn. A million miles from fresh. 

Sure you can use clichés, but if you don't lose your readers altogether, you certainly won't delight them.

If you want your book to be read and enjoyed--and, consequently, referred--you'll want to do the hard work of eliminating the clichés of your industry or community. And, yes, finding fresh ways to communicate your ideas is mind-breaking work.

Here are a few tips to help you spot and eliminate clichés in your writing:

1. Reading great writers helps you identify writing absent of clichés. Underline sections/sentences that feel fresh. That pull you in. The great writers don’t use cliches. 

2. Conversely, pay attention also to bad writing. Clichés often show up in "fast writing" produced quickly for digital consumption. As you begin to identify clichés in other people's writing, you become more aware of clichés in your own writing.

3. Enlist a reader, and  ask them to identify the clichés . They’ll likely identify stuff you overlook. Just recently I (Dave) wrote and published a piece. During a peer review, someone spotted a cliché I had previously overlooked. Slow down for this important step.

4.  Lay down your first draft, and then re-read what you wrote. Clichés often pop up when we  we write the first thing that pops into our mind. If you're in a writing groove, and the ideas are flowing, we don't recommend you slow down to craft sentences. Leave the clichés until you have time to  slow down and ask yourself, “Is this the freshest way to say this?”

5. When you flag a cliché, slow down to describe what is happening in specific detail. For example, when I used the word pivot in the opening sentence, what do I actually mean?

What I’m actually saying is that “I am derailing or jumping off the rails of my current train of thought and jumping to a new topic.” That would be a fresher (though longer) way to describe a transition of ideas. You might even be more descriptive: "We're jumping of the Blue Line and jumping on the Red Line."

When you slow down to describe what you want to say, fresh metaphors and imagery come to mind.



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