Don't use cliches, Why you shouldn't use cliches, writing tips, business writing, marketing communicationsby Bonnie Chomica

I’ll bet you use clichés all the time, without even thinking. They roll off our tongue, or our keyboard, because we think they portray a more colourful message. But, they may be killing your marketing message for several reasons.

Cliché In The Dictionary

Clichés – noun:

a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.

Essentially, clichés are stale and boring, and often confuse people, rather than making your point.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Clichés

We are lazy in our language, and often take the easiest route. But, consider that some audiences may not ‘get’ what you are trying to say with your cliché, and therefore will leave your email, blog post, or social site.

Some people that may not understand your cliché:

Scanners – people who scan through text looking for keywords, bullets, and clear meaning to get the information they want. They may stumble on your cliché, and if they have to stop and think about what you are saying, they will likely not finish your message.

Younger Generations – clichés have typically been around for generations, long before even Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials came along. Many clichés may appear unfamiliar to them.

English As a Second Language (ESL) – there are many foreign people living and working in my English-speaking world. They are challenged with our difficult language already, without having to figure out the hidden meaning behind a cliché.

Business Clichés to Avoid

Our daily lives are full of clichés. In business, they’re used very often, when a more suitable explanation would make a stronger impact. Remember, your reader may not understand your intention.

Following are some of the most colourful business clichés. Picture someone who doesn’t know any of these terms. Imagine their brow scrunching up, as they try to visualize, or decipher what you are trying to say.

Don’t Drink the Koolaid       

Literal:   What’s wrong with the Koolaid in the coffee room?

Better:    If their actions don’t agree with your values, or don’t hold up in an argument, don’t get involved with them.

Open the Kimono

Literal:   I just bought office-appropriate attire, now you want me to expose myself in a kimono?

Better:    Let’s reveal all of our concepts, and don’t hold back any information. No secrets.

Low Hanging Fruit

Literal:    We’re picking fruit now? What kind of fruit?

Better:     These are the prospects which will be easiest to sell to

Bite the Bullet

Literal:    That would be pretty bad for my teeth, and besides, where would I get one.

Better:     Make a decision to move forward, even though it might be difficult, or unpleasant.

Don’t Burn Your Bridges

Literal:   I’m sure I won’t. That sounds very dangerous.

Better:     Don’t treat people nasty, because they may be your next boss, or ally.


And there are more:

Think outside the box  

There is a box, what box?

Put all your eggs in one basket

Are we selling eggs? Where is the basket?

In a nutshell

We’re packaging things in nutshells?

And still more…

  • take it to the next level
  • win-win situation
  • at the end of the day
  • giving 100%
  • strike while the iron is hot
  • no brainer
  • turn-key solution
  • beat a dead horse
  • everything from soup to nuts

And let’s not forget sport-related clichés.

  • Par for the course
  • The Ball is in your court
  • Down to the wire
  • Step up to the plate
  • We’ve got them on the ropes

The Bottom Line

Ha ha!  That sub title was a cliché. Better, would be “My Conclusion”. See how easy it is for them to just show up. This past week, I’ve heard them on the radio, TV news casts, advertisements, and social media, just to name a few.

Using clichés makes you look lazy, and reflects on your ability to deliver original, creative ideas. Take the time to say exactly what you mean, and you’ll have a more effective impact with your audience. Make your writing easier.

Do you know of other clichés, that drive you crazy, or are funny to interpret?

Feel free to share them in the comments.


Bonnie Chomica

Marketing Mentor

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