Daily, genre-inspired writing prompts for authors, teachers, and journaling

Killing clichés

One rule writers learn early is to kill clichés. To prove the point, I will define my terms with a tired trope of the copywriter:

cli·ché  /klēˈSHā/

  1. A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
  2. A very predictable or unoriginal thing or person.

If anyone asks why writers should eliminate clichés from their work, the answer is usually brief, to the point, and wrong: “It’s boring.”

Well, not actually wrong … just incomplete.

Neurology and psychology explain why clichés bore us:

We don’t learn anything from what we expect.

According to research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, “the dopaminergic system of the human brain seems to be … tuned to learn whenever anything unexpected happens but not when things are predictable.”

In other words, our familiarity with a turn of phrase – regardless of how clever or appropriate it may be – communicates to us that we can safely ignore it.

So when it comes time to edit the clichés out of your work, put some elbow grease into it.

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