Thread: Tracking and Analyzing Cliched Language

Mitchell and I have been discussing to what degree one should avoid the use of cliches in writing. I find that this discussion seeps into my consciousness when I’m writing, making me more aware of cliches, or possible cliches, in my writing. Additionally, sometimes when I’m in the process of writing, I write what I think might be a cliche, and I’m curious to know Mitchell’s opinion–on whether it’s a cliche and the alternate he would use instead. But I usually forget these specific examples. This thread will be a for these examples, as well as to discuss this topic more generally. By the way, I thought of this topic precisely because I was in the process of writing a sentence that I thought was cliched. Here’s the sentence: “Her judgment may not be as rock solid as she thought.” Is “rock solid” a cliche? I thought it might be so I changed it to “reliable.” But then I thought: Is “reliable” a significantly better word choice–i.e., does it significantly improve the writing? What say, you Mitchell? (Also, I think one of the obstacles in this discussion is the definition of cliche–or more specifically, properly recognizing and labeling a cliche. I hope we can discuss that topic here, too.)

2 thoughts on “Thread: Tracking and Analyzing Cliched Language

  1. There’s a second part to the sample sentence I mention above, which also has a potential cliche:

    This is not to say that the consensus over who deserves the most respect is valid, but the judgment may not be so rock solid especially if the person lives in the present, versus someone from the past, who has stood the test of time.

    The italicized phrases seem like cliches to me. Should they be changed? And if so I’d like to see alternates (because then we can better judge if alternatives make the writing better).

  2. Mitchell,

    Do your approach to cliches also apply to song lyrics? I ask because in looking at “Where the Streets Have No Name,” I feel like there are passages that are cliched. The one that first caught my attention:

    I’ll show you a place
    High on a desert plain

    “High on a desert plain” seems cliched. There are other examples from the song. My sense is that what supersedes the cliche is a need to find words that rhyme. I’m not sure what to think. I like the lyrics of the song, but a part of me does feel like the cliched language does take a little away from it.

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