In George Orwell’s landmark essay, Politics and the English Language, Orwell defines a cliché as any phrase used in print which we see frequently. I’m inclined to agree with him. One of the hardest things for developing poets, novelists, and essayists is the burden of the cliché. Sometimes, I use strange syntax because of my fear of writing something clichéd. I also may wield clichés unwittingly; both are pretty common. Here are a few I’ve noticed in my daily life. (Did you see that meta-humor? I used a cliché, “daily life,” in describing clichés. I’ll try not to break my arm from patting myself on the back.)
These aren’t as much idiomatic ‘clichés’ like “clean your clock” or “slow as molasses,” but rather frequent phrases which are fairly meaningless.
- in real life
- Just use “in reality.” Real life is not only childish but also redundant. Most people would universally agree that life is a thing which is real.
- in all honesty
- This makes me uncomfortable. When you hear someone preface with this, you usually expect something offensive or negative to follow. It’s also overused, so best to avoid it.
- in today’s society
- We’ve all heard uninformed highschoolers griping about how “society” is awful. Society is literally everyone in your country, so it’s pretty difficult to make such a sweeping generalization. It lacks precision and it’s overused.
- due to the fact that
- I see this in rough drafts pretty frequently. Just use “because.” This is a bloated phrase that could be a lot simpler and more interesting. If you say this out loud, you’re probably too pretentious for your own good. Sorry to break it to you. 😉
There are way more clichés out there, and there are likely plenty which are more pernicious than these five. But if you happen to catch yourself using these in conversation, It’s probably best if you should just.. stop. Life’s more interesting with inventive, colorful, and original language. Trust me on this one.