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12 Cliches All Writers Should Avoid

Categories: Brian Klems' The Writer's Dig Tags: Brian Klems, online editor blog.

Cliches drive me bonkers, especially when it comes to writing. They are boring and abused and about as fun to read as the instruction manual of a Dustbuster. Writing is supposed to be a creative process, and there’s nothing creative in rehashing some trite phrase that is so old it was probably used by Moses as he parted the Red Sea.

So I asked the Writer’s Digest team of editors to help me compile a list of the 12 cliches in writing that need to be permanently retired. Here they are (in no particular order):

1. Avoid it like the plague
2. Dead as a doornail
3. Take the tiger by the tail
4. Low hanging fruit
5. If only walls could talk
6. The pot calling the kettle black
7. Think outside the box
8. Thick as thieves
9. But at the end of the day
10. Plenty of fish in the sea
11. Every dog has its day
12. Like a kid in a candy store

And those are just the tip of the iceberg (oh wait, there’s bonus cliche #13!).

Now that you’ve seen ours, what I want to know is: What cliches annoy you the most? Post it below in the comments section. Also, feel free to share this on Twitter to help us build the ultimate list of cliches that need to be retired:

12 Cliches All Writers Should Avoid – http://bit.ly/QBBT2o (via @BrianKlems) #wdCliches

[Editor's Note: Winners of the Cliches Contest are listed here.]

Another article you may also enjoy on the topic is:
10 Tips to Avoid Clichés in Writing


Follow me on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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378 Responses to 12 Cliches All Writers Should Avoid

  1. Jimmy_James says:

    I don’t care for the list to avoid. While good clichés are often trite, their wisdom transcends situations and time. I don’t like the abuse of them, but

    He who knows he knows, knows not.

  2. DadWithAPen says:

    Two of my pet peeves…

    “Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?”

    Exactly. Why should you? It shouldn’t be a slant on anyone – yet it’s used to describe, usually, someone in a relationship where they aren’t married – but people think they should be.

    “Having their cake and eating it too.”

    First, it should be, “Eating their cake and having it too.” That makes more sense.

    But yes – why not? Why not have your cake and eat it too? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?

  3. Jedd says:

    This may have been said already but…


    “Reach Out”

    “We’re like a family” (to describe a workplace)

    And any semi-wannabe corporate douche that loves to STILL use Power Point!

  4. dawnie75 says:

    A little late in the game
    If you believe that I got a bridge to sell you
    did you get your license from a cracker jack box
    roller coaster of emotions
    mad as a hornet
    busy as a bee
    I had this thought rattling around in my head
    count your chickens before they hatch
    Kennywoods open ( from Pittsburgh, meaning your pants are unzipped. )
    Cute as a Fox ( they use this in Ireland to say someone is very clever)

    – Not sure if all of these would be considered cliches but they are a bit overused.-

  5. artfulmee says:

    “Haters gonna hate.” It’s relatively new, and probably the most disrespectful and dismissive response to valid criticism I’ve ever heard. And to not-so-valid criticism as well.

    I am a hater of that phrase, and proud of it, and I’m gonna keep hating it. That’s right. I’m a hater. And I’m gonna hate.

    And while I’m at it, I used to have a boss that started too many sentences with, “The point being, is…” That was always the point at which I became emotionally absent from the conversation.

  6. sedge says:

    I forgot to mention the cliche party I once attended. They pinned a cliche to your back and you had to guess it from their hints.
    Have a nice day, folks (but don’t tell me to do that again)!

  7. sedge says:

    Is no one tired of “moving forward”? How did the politicians ever manage without it?

    I have enjoyed “not anytime soon” as a local expression, but now it seems to have “gone viral” (uh oh) and “at the end of the day” (but I like that one; it’s British) will join the list of annoying cliches.

  8. rickybold says:

    “begs the question”; “that being said”

  9. 7moonlight says:

    Low hanging fruit
    Been there, done that.
    No pain, no gain.
    Some of these have been mentioned before.

    Blood is thicker than water.
    It is what it is.
    But at the end of the day (oh so tired of that one)
    Get hitched
    BALL AND CHAIN (hate that one)
    Between a rock and a hard place
    No such thing as bad publicity (really – tell that to Todd Akin)
    kick-ass (does every urban fantasy heroine have to be “kick ass”)

  10. flame says:

    More cliche’s:

    I’d like to be a fly on the wall
    Flat out like a lizard drinking
    Rare as hens teeth
    Couldn’t fight your way out of a wet paper bag
    Red as a beetroot
    Chasing your own tail
    Dead as a door nail
    Quiet as a church mouse

  11. StephAnnDLC says:

    I’ve always tired of hearing,

    It is/was like stealing candy from a baby.

  12. cheryl1028 says:

    Let me try again,
    “Like flies on shit”

  13. L-Rob says:

    There are so many . . . here are my additions:

    Shook her like a rag doll
    Light as a feather
    As I’m sure you know
    Mad enough to spit nails
    Soft as a baby’s bottom
    White as a ghost

  14. atwhatcost says:

    I admit it, I hate exercising and folks who think the world would be a better place if everyone used their spare time to exercise, so let me add my cliches:
    I admit it
    The world would be a better place if….
    spare time
    couch potato
    No pain, no gain.
    110%. (Really? How does anyone go above 100%?)
    Leave it all on the field.
    Leave it all in the gym.
    Leave it all in the locker room.
    workouts (too often they’re work ins)
    work up to your full potential
    and the infamous lie – give me 1 more. ;)

  15. cnorman18 says:

    “Twinkle in (his, her) eye.”

    Anything “as a summer’s day.” Peaceful, pretty, whatever. Same for “winter’s day,” “spring morning,” etc.

    “Dumb as a box of rocks” or “…bag of hammers.”

    Anybody “yelling and screaming.” (I actually heard this twice in less than an hour while listening to an audiobook — of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings!)

    Incidentally, “It was a dark and stormy night” was not only the opening line for Snoopy’s erstwhile book, but for Madeline L’Engle’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time. Honest.

    • sedge says:

      “It was a dark and stormy night, the rain fell in torrents–” is the opening of the 1830 novel “Paul Clifford” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. See Wikipedia for more about this infamous “purple prose” (yes, Wikipedia uses this phrase).

  16. Laura says:

    Stages to clichehood:

    1. Fresh metaphor or aphorism created and published. Author lauded. Others accused of plagiarism if they use it.

    2. General public begins using the metaphor or aphorism in day to day life. Lazy writers use it in newspaper articles and business memos.

    3. Everyone tires of hearing and reading the metaphor or aphorism. CLICHEHOOD REACHED!

    Moral of the story? (another cliche?) Every cliche started out as someone’s fresh way of making a point or teaching a lesson.

  17. winnieash9@gmail.com says:

    How about these?
    At this point in time.
    The fat is in the fire.

  18. sandpaper7 says:

    “The expression on her (his) face.”

  19. Ranashubair says:

    “Your’re dead meat”
    ” copy cat”
    ” generally speaking”
    ” send my blood boiling”

  20. Writes4laffs says:

    “It is what it is”
    “At the end of the day”
    “In the grand scheme of things”
    “Get in on the ground floor”
    “The writing’s on the wall”

  21. KarenDoll says:

    * Dead tired (as if the dead could be tired)
    * Dead as a door nail ( door nails were never alive to begin with )
    * It”s not rocket science
    * Makes my skin crawl ! (this one just makes me feel like bugs are crawling all over me )
    * The well’s run dry
    * Naked as a Jay bird
    * Blood is thicker than water

  22. JordanProj says:

    The list could be so long! I try to avoid outdated or culturally poor cliches like these:
    Black as coal (Name me a teenager that has actually seen coal?)
    Running around like wild Indians
    Busy as a one-armed paper hanger
    Sharp as a tack (Again – who really has used tacks and why use that to describe a smart person?)
    Slower than my grandma (you never saw my grandma drive)
    Chip off the old block (what?)

  23. acarter says:

    The phrase I hate the MOST “I could care less” The phrase makes no sense at all. What the writer
    is trying to say she/he couldn’t care about a subject. Why doesn’t he/she just say “I couldn’t care less.”

  24. wbiro says:

    *neocons (sticky ‘s’ key)

  25. wbiro says:

    No one has covered the political arena, and that can be the most annoying – mainly because people “suck it up”! (which isn’t a cliché- it is an actual description).

    How about

    “We must move forward!”

    “We need change!”

    If you didn’t barf when Hillary used those, and you say you hate clichés, then you are a hypocrite…

    Any phrase with the word “gravitas” in it from the news. (I haven’t heard it recently. and I hope it is out of fashion already!)

    It’s getting to the point where people mindlessly spew out anything they hear concerning politics – not having given politics any thought – they are just going along with the crowd, things like

    “Bush ruined the economy.”

    “It’s those neocon!”

    Some I still get a kick out of:

    “Demtards.” lol

    So any phrase with a ‘tard-suffixed’ word in it will soon be overused, because right now they are so fun to create! (and here we are talking about cliché-tards!)

    (and I will forever use ‘lol’ – since I see the most trite and shallow people annoyed by it – and they are the most fun to annoy…!)

    and about cliches that originated on farms and in the country – I been wondering where they went – I haven’t heard any in so long (living in the suburbs), and yet I think they’re going to make a comeback – like a fleeting fashion trend, though by then people won’t have a clue as to what they mean, or even know what the animals look like…

    and how about that exclamation point? I wouldn’t go avoiding it unnecessarily – especially when it means either sounding dour and angry or sounding alive and upbeat.

    Like that. Upbeat with a period. dead. Might as well stop reading right there. It’s over. Unhappy ending. Sour. Like this.

    Periods are deadening. Come to think of it, I’m submitting periods as an overused cliché. If you want to be a furrow-browed old grump, go ahead. I really hate them!


    So my biggest hated cliché?


    Ech! They are pretentious!

  26. Janus says:

    The typical family and their 2.5 children… okaaay, because i know heaps of people who give birth to HALF A CHILD
    Actually it might be 1.5. oh well, either way…

  27. Marie says:

    Wow. There are a TON of cliches!

    “hitting the nail on the head”

  28. JohnA says:

    Didn’t realise there were that many cliches in use. I imagine many of the posters here are cringing at other posts quoting cliches THEY like, and use.

    Let’s be honest: we all use cliches – or they wouldn’t be cliches. And when writing fiction, if your characters don’t use some cliches, they are probably a little less believable than they should be.

    • Kerr Berr says:

      Excellent point, John, which I wanted to share also. It’s important to remember that when avoiding cliches, do so in NARRATIVE. However, as you stated, NATURAL dialogue will include some cliches, and some people (aka characters) have certain catchphrases. Using these for specific characters helps define them and make them more real, as well as more identifiable by their speech patterns.

      Manners of speaking (in dialogue) should be carefully revised so that the reader knows who is speaking (most of the time) before the speaker attribute is even given.

      That being said (ack, there’s another one), I cringe when someone says “Well, to be honest…”

      Oh shootfire, you mean you’ve been lying to me up until now?!?! :)

      However, make your characters repeat certain phrases like this that people use, just be careful that other characters don’t use these same personal catchphrases. My buck-three-fifty, lol. (I refrained from saying my two cents worth)

  29. Bounce10 says:

    Stick the landing – folks on TV can’t seem to get away from it since the 2012 Olympics – enough already!

    And an old but still bothersome one is when someone says “impacted” instead of affected.

    Love the list – this has been an enjoyable read.

  30. Karen says:

    “You win some, you lose some.” This sounds like a loser’s attitude to me.

  31. RedHeadedViking says:

    “It is what it is” makes me want to “go postal”. I also intensely dislike the phrase “shot dead”. Really? When is the last time someone was “shot alive”? Whatever happened to just saying “killed”?

  32. Hit the nail on the head

    You don’t have a dog in the fight

    Skating on thin ice

    Not sure if this one is a true cliche’ but my dad used this one – “You are cruising for a bruising”

  33. mikesensei says:

    Anything involving the word “amazing.” (Especially when celebrities use it at funerals: “She was such an amazing individual.” /sniff/ )


  34. patu says:

    1. “when vultures are circling”
    2. “When sharks are circling”
    3. “Honest as the day is long”
    4. “Till the cows come home”
    6. “Cats and dogs”
    7. “An iron hand in the velvet glove”
    8. “Beat them at their own game”
    9. “Throw the gauntlet”
    10. “Swallow the bitter pills”
    11. “As cool as the cucumber”
    12. “Wheels within wheels”
    13. “Throw spanner into the wheel”

  35. Catfish 9 says:

    “Fire at will”

  36. Catfish 9 says:

    It’s always funny to me when I her, “Shoot at will!” Makes me wonder how often during a movie seen that everyone turns toward the actor named Will . . .

  37. fishnet says:

    “It is what it is.”

  38. Lisa PK says:

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  39. MegMac says:

    “When hell freezes over” (if you’ve read Dante’s Inferno, you know the bottom level of hell is already frozen)

    “When pigs fly”

    Anything “epic.” Not everything that happens is that amazing. The only things that should be referred to as epic are epic poems like that of Homer and Virgil, Paradise Lost, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and The Avengers.

    Misusing “That’s ironic.” Learn what irony is first, then we’ll talk.

  40. a.bennett2 says:

    This is so not a Catch 22 situation, and can I say (?) not a sexy policy by any stretch of the imagination. Having said that, yours truly just wants to articulate that we are all singing from the same song-book to get to that level playing field. Basically, we have to join the dots to get to the coal-face of our mission statement. Essentially, this little black duck will never throw the baby out with the bath-water. Are you with me? Well, in point of fact yours truly must away now. Have a nice day!

  41. While sitting in the shade of an old cottonwood trying to snag a bullhead for supper, and had to think outside the box on this one. Glad to see “A fish out of water,” finally come up. However, since people speak cliches, dialogue might lean into the stupid realm if not used. Certainly they can be exorcised from . . . whatchimacallit? . . . oh yes, narration.

  42. JettAllyson says:

    Take the bull by the horns
    Run away with his tail between his legs
    His/her blood ran cold
    His heart was in his throat
    She broke into a cold sweat
    It took her by surprise
    If you ask me…
    Get off your high horse
    He’s just sewing his wild oats
    Scared the hell out of me
    Scared me to death (which isn’t even accurate for a still-living person to say)

    I know it’s not a cliche, but I hate the words “suddenly” when used more than once in one story. How often can a sudden thing really happen?

  43. I think there are still some that haven’t been touched on (oldies but moldies, which is another one):
    Flat as a pancake
    Stiff as a board
    Dark as night
    Dark as dago
    Too dumb to be funny
    Blow the stink off you
    Quiet as a mouse
    Skinny as a mealy cow
    White as a sheet
    Stronger than a bull
    Soft as a butterfly
    Creamy as churned butter
    Milky-white skin
    Like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs
    Like a bull in a china shop

    And cheesy, over-used phrases like:
    Midnight hair
    Chestnut eyes
    Languid form (don’t use ‘form’ in general when describing a person’s body – ugh!!!)
    Subtle moves
    Thick mane (this is used all too often to describe a woman, not a horse, sheeze)
    Her eyes flew to him (Really? Eyes can fly?)

  44. shanster303 says:

    I can’t stand “like taking candy from a baby”.

    And I don’t know if it’s a cliche or not, but I hate when I see in novels “more than one/a little”. Why not just say “a lot” or “many” so it won’t be so wordy?

  45. Mrs. Tracy says:

    I agree…a very common cliché would be one of the many versions of “The grass is greener…”

    I heard a song the other day on the radio and the male rapper said, “The grass is greener where you water it.” I found that to be great way to make new use of an old cliché.

    My grandmother had a couple I loved. If I wore tight pants she would say, “Lord! You look like you were melted and poured back into those pants!” Back in my youth I heard that often.

  46. Amanda Helms says:

    It is what it is.

    Work smarter, not harder.

    And I, too, am a hater of that box and thinking outside of it.

  47. Keleen says:

    hopeh1122 response is hilarious . . . ☀

  48. Keleen says:

    “It goes without saying” ————————————–

  49. sallie says:

    Go figure: He thought she was hot to trot, but now he’s knee deep in trouble. And I warned him that she can’t hold a candle to what was…I mean, she eats like a horse, and never lifted a finger to boot. C’mon, it was clear as mud that she was too hot to handle. But ol’ eagle eye, just like clock work, said “Piece of cake.” Yep, he takes the prize, because now he’s boxed in a corner, tied up in knots and swimming against the tide. And now his life is up for grabs. Well, no use crying over spilled milk, I told him, I mean, you can’t eat your heart out over someone who’s not pencil perfect. You gotta turn another page, or you’ll be dead meat. After all, she’s not the only chicken in the pot. Well, I could go on and on…but I think I’ll just sleep on it—wait! I just decided he’s not my cup of tea, either, so why bother with such nonesense. He’s a real fruitcake!

    • sookie says:

      What does this mean? Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    • Kerr Berr says:

      Sally, hilarious. Ya beat me to the punch, lol.

      Not to beat a dead horse (ack, who would DO that?!?!), but writers should get their ducks in a row when revising and mind the store like dogs in heat or else the readers will eat them alive like foxes in a hen house. You just have to take the bull by the horns and go for the gusto, so that when the chickens come home to roost and the smoke has cleared, you have your writing soaring with eagles and singing like a choir of angels.

      There. I feel better now. Cheers! :)

  50. aaheaventree says:

    I abhor “Apples to Oranges”

  51. harryb49 says:

    My “unfavorite” phrase is “Behind the eight ball.”

  52. hopeh1122 says:

    Cliches are a dime a dozen, so I will be hard-pressed to come with a few that are as good as gold. Needless to say, even though most are old hat, there are a few that really rock my world. I am absolutely head over heels for the southern fried cliches like “mad as a wet hen” and “fits him like a bad suit” but then there are some like “caught like a deer in the headlights”, and “too big for his britches” that really don’t float my boat.
    I think writers should start from scratch and come up with their own unique cliches, go out on a limb a little bit, but then again, why reinvent the wheel if there are all ready so many good ones out there ripe for the picking? Just pick one that fits like a hand in a glove with what you are trying to convey. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, the show must go on, so just be clear about your meaning (the creme de la creme of good writing) and let the cliches flow like water downhill.

    • mundenj1 says:

      I may be overly sensitve, but the phrase “to no avail” causes me to chuck whatever it is I happen to be reading. I close the book, put down the paper, turn off the computer, and never read another word written by that writer. Please stop using it.

  53. The overly dramatic “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

  54. Darden North says:

    That’s water under the bridge.

    How’s your mama and them?

  55. Pepper.Pilgrim says:

    I’ve been working my butt off trying to think of annoying clichés, but I can’t get down to the brass tacks of just doing it. All you other people offer them up easily, as though you were shooting fish in a barrel. I feel like I’m behind the 8 ball or worse, up a tree, or simply a small fish in a big pond and sinking like a stone. I know, that seems like an open and shut case of bad omens. I wish I had more imagination, but I’m just lost when it comes to the nitty gritty of using the right side of my brain. It feels like I’m running against the wind or spitting into it. I’m off to a bad start. I know it’s late, and my back’s against the wall. I just can’t think, my mind is running amok. Holy cow! That’s sick. It would be really righteous if I could put two and two together here, hopefully crank it up a notch.

    Maybe we could circle the wagons and start afresh. But we might get off on the wrong foot. That would be one giant step for mankind, but one foot in the grave for me. I need to sharpen my wits, perhaps get in the zone, instead of looking at life through the bottom of a bottle. Maybe I could somehow get on the same page as you all, perhaps pull the plug on ennui. I feel like I’m living off the grid but writing from the heart. I feel like I need to buy a vowel. I’m not at the top of my game by any stretch of the imagination. It feels like someone else’s tail is waggin’ the dog here, while I’m chillin’ in my crib. Please, beam me up, Scotty.

    Not that that would help because, again, my head is stuck so far up my butt, I can only see where the sun don’t shine. And my imagination is so weak, it won’t let me walk down any yellow-brick road toward that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Maybe I’ll google it. I’m no quitter, but it feels like I’m fighting for my life. I’m just some Plain Jane or John Doe trying to make it through another day of writing what you know. No rest for the weary.

    You think you could help a brother out?? No…got enough troubles of your own, got your own damn bucket list? Then fine, why don’t you just go, leave on the horse you rode in on. Catch my drift, dude?

    • Kerr Berr says:

      That’s what I’m trying to say, lol. I read you like a book. Don’t beat around the bush about it, or get your britches in a twist, or your panties in a wad, just go out there and take the world by storm, and keep your reading audience in stitches. Make them laugh like there’s no tomorrow, cry a river of tears, scare the life out of them, keep them on the edge of their seat, and you’ll keep them coming back for more like beggars at a banquet. I hope that was crystal clear, smart as a whip, sharp as a tack, cute as a button, sweet as honey, and cool as a cucumber. Somebody shoot me, I’m going off the rails like a speeding freight train without brakes. Or a kid in a candy store. Or a bull in a China shop. Yeah, you’re preaching to the choir.

  56. TimLorge says:

    Anything that appears on a bumper sticker, hat or T-shirt. Also, that which could be considered “hip” such as starting a sentence with “Oh, FYI …”. Unless, of course, you are writing for a YA TV show when at least one of the aforementioned should appear in every scene.

  57. debcar says:

    Dancing on my grave
    Greener on the other side (of what?)
    In the business world … when a program (or something else) is referred to as “sexy”
    One horse town (I’ve seen towns with all the resources you need, except for a horse)
    Out to lunch (crazy?)
    I’ve lost my mojo (what is that?)
    Sad, but true

    Can’t think of anymore, but I’m sure they’re out there, being spoken to death … hehehe

  58. CJKEats says:

    Much of what has been dissed here already is actually slang terms, not really cliches, but some of both that bug me are:
    “we’re on the same page” and its follow-thru “Going forward”
    “Cute as a button” (Never liked buttons- maybe cute as a zipper or velcro would be more current)
    “Silent as the grave”
    “Black as night”
    “On the down-low”
    “the minute seemed to last an hour” (Or variations- the hour semed to last a day etc)
    “don’t kid a kidder”
    “You’re gonna want to see this!” the chosen method of evidence reveal in most police dramas.
    SO many cliuches, so little time – woops there’s another one…..

  59. rbgreene04 says:

    Has anyone mentioned “that’s so cliche?” Or is that too much of a Catch-22 ? (whoops! was that another one?)

  60. bocairene says:

    Read them all.
    Agree with them all.
    Can you imagine what it would be like to have them all in one book!!!
    Aaargh!! Horrors!!!

  61. Hazy Shades of Me says:

    “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

  62. a.bennett2 says:

    “This little black duck”

    “Build a bridge and get over it”

    “Patchwork economy”

    “____ -driven”

  63. chas2788 says:

    I have to take issue with the 2nd cliche on your list. Charles Dickens proved that you can use “dead as a doornail” and be quite entertaining. The cliche on my list is “fly on a wall.” Miley Cyrus proved you can’t make that one entertaining.

  64. txtootsie says:

    The two cliches I hate are:

    Catch 22
    Like white on rice.

  65. mdallison says:

    1) Its time.
    2) Avoid using cliches.
    3) Words cannot express.
    4) So just dive in!
    5) We’re taking the next step.
    6) Onto another level.
    7) To go the extra mile.
    8) Strictly speaking.
    9) Live a little.
    10) On the wild side.
    11) “Raising” or “lowering” everyone’s expectations.
    12) You never know.

  66. bjroe says:

    I especially hate

    Totally awesome!
    It is what it is.
    Think outside the box.
    Get with the program!
    Man up!
    Suck it up!
    Team player
    Don’t get your knickers in a twist.
    Going off half-cocked.
    On the same page
    110% effort
    Old-timers disease
    Crazy as a fox
    Hot as a fox
    Silly as a goose
    Fat as a pig
    Ugly as a mud fence
    Plain as an old shoe
    Ugly as homemade sin
    work like a horse
    fly off the handle
    hell-bent for . . .
    Literally (for something that is anything but literal)
    You know, like
    Fly in the ointment
    Mad as a wet hen
    It goes without saying . . .
    To make a long story short
    put in my 2 cents worth
    booty call
    omg (or any of its variants with actual words)

    Some of these would fit some fictional characters for dialogue. Too much of any one of them could “send me off the deep end.”

  67. chipper says:

    Cliches are a unique language that identify like minded people; discriminately selected cliches do not bother me as much as fashion phrases that seem to come and go without warning; “it was surreal” for example or “it was the perfect storm” and more recently, “uber…”. ugh!

  68. dbancrof says:

    Here’s one I just caught myself writing (don’t worry, I’ll change it): “flew out the door.”

  69. megan2012 says:

    I actually like ‘glass half full’ – I just wish it wasn’t so overused.

    For an international perspective:
    ‘spat the dummy’
    ‘ran around like a blue-arse fly’

  70. WriteRightAZ says:

    At the end of the day!

  71. Steve Simms says:

    The cliche that most bothers me is: new paradigm.

  72. KeeleeHamomin says:

    I absolutely cannot stand;
    “By the skin of your teeth.” Ugh!! I HATE it. Makes my skin crawl, and no, not the skin on my teeth (whatever that is supposed to mean anyway.)

    I also hate the “think outside the box” and “practice makes perfect.” Every time I read those, I imagine a nasally, high pitched voice saying it, because usually that is the type of person I hear it from. If you can’t think of half the things I did that morning, you have no right to tell me to think outside of anything, much less your box.

  73. Dianne says:

    Get back to work. … Just sayin ….

  74. vinnie says:

    Come on folks, not all things considered cliché deserve debasement. Try thinking of some of these well used phrases as a way of compressing a lot of culture and feeling into just a few words.
    “Between a rock and a hard pace, “is one of my favorites. I use it often, and intend to use it thousands more.
    Imagine a miner trapped on the 4800 foot level. The substation is blown to shards, the face pumps are down, and the water is already to his waist. He feels the need to state the perfectly obvious to his fellow workers. “Boys, we’re between a rock and a hard place. “ It covers the place and the situation, and all the little nuance in between, rather nicely. It’s hard for me to imagine this individual, considering where he came from, what he does, who he associates with, his station in life, and his situation, saying anything else.
    If “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” were done up in Latin it would end up somewhere around “que roche roche alum”, would be contributed to a great scholar, and considered a motto. It would sprout wings and fly in the worlds most prestigious universities.
    Not all cliché are cliché.
    But as we go forward, we will endeavor to persevere, in the face of pervasive intellectual snobbery.

  75. Rachel Rogers says:

    “Sick as a dog” and “set the ball rolling” are certainly my top two!

  76. I hate:
    It’s all good.
    Dumber than a bag of hammers.
    Be a team player.

  77. catbr says:

    Yeah some of those listed cliches are really annoying but I have to admit I still use a couple of them from time to time when talking. Not so in writing. One cliche that bothers me is: It was a lightbulb moment. On the other hand a couple that I like are: Don’t judge a person until you have walked around a few miles in their shoes; The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. ( Not really sure if these two are cliches or if they fall under some other category.)

  78. vickielb says:

    Been there, done that. Got the teeshirt.
    So thick you could cut the stress, fog, tension with a knife.
    No problem.
    My bad.
    Smart as a tack.
    Dumb like a fox.
    … (Comes from, lived on, Born on) The other side of the tracks.

  79. brenj62 says:

    My son says until I am nauseous: Oh chill-ax (chill and relax)

    Smoking hot! Okay, someone get the fire extinguisher!

    Drop, dead gorgeous. Well, if she drops dead, the gorgeous will end rather suddenly…once decay sets in!

    One tall drink of water. Well, if he is a human, he is mostly water anyway. So, really we are all tall drinks of water!

    Step up to the plate. If we are not playing baseball, why should we?

    Cute as a bug in a rug. Am I the only one that does not find a bug in the rug cute?!!

    It was a dark and stormy night. Yes, people still use it. No, it isn’t published, though…lol!

    I am loving this!

  80. KelleySheppard says:

    The grass is greener on the other side.
    Shut the Front Door is much nicer than Shut the F*$k Up, but I don’t like either one.
    See a man about a horse.
    Birds of a feather flock together.
    Your ass is grass and I’m the lawn mower. I rarely hear this one now.
    Who spit in your cheerios? I think I am having early 90’s flashbacks. I’m going to stop now and get back to writing :) This has been fun!

    • Kerr Berr says:

      Well, Kelley, at least you didn’t say “Who peed in your Wheaties?” And with that, I’m going to put my nose to the grindstone too, and give it all I’ve got and let the chips fall where they may. No sense in letting all the chickens out of the coop, ay? I mean, we have to keep from putting the horse before the carriage… although putting the horse behind it isn’t much incentive to make him push. Unless you lead him by a carrot on a stick…

  81. Sleuth007 says:

    As cliched as it may sound …..

  82. Alphawings says:

    A picture is worth a thousand words.

  83. donnabarker says:

    Knee high to a grasshopper.
    He/she was hit with an ugly stick.
    Just like two peas in a pod.
    Don’t get your knickers in a twist.
    She wears her heart on her sleeve.
    He was fit to be tied.

  84. TX-exPat says:

    While I dislike low-hanging fruit, that being said, at the end of the day, long story short, and that dog won’t hunt — I really despise the constant misuse of the term “actionable” as in “We need actionable suggestions.” Uh, no you don’t, unless you enjoy being sued.

    There are some clichés that I like and use in speech only, just because they are word paintings AND ear candy: “busier than a short-tailed bull in the height of fly season” is a favorite.

  85. Marianne says:

    Bull in a china shop.

  86. LittleBird87 says:

    I’m so tired of people writing (and saying) ‘as well’ at the end of a sentence when they mean ‘too’. As in:
    “John and Mary went to the park, and we went there as well.” I think it started as a British colloquialism and migrated over to the U.S., but it doesn’t work with our speech patterns here–it just sounds stilted.

    • G-Girl2 says:

      I think it’s a regional thing. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and “as well” is commonly used. It’s never sounded stilted to me. But then my mom was Canadian so maybe it was that sneaky British influence after all. ;+}

  87. Dale S. Rogers says:

    The fact of the matter is . . .

    When all is said and done . . .

  88. Tracy Davidson says:

    “Stop strangling the cat!”

    Which usually gets yelled at me whenever I start singing in the shower. Some people have no respect for my talent!

  89. CoWat says:

    Adding to the above lists:
    …”rubs me raw”
    That’s “peachy keen”
    “Built like a brick Sh%@ house”
    “watching the grass grow”


  90. Robert Iulo says:

    Here are a few “off the top of my head.”

    Been there, done that
    Don’t go there
    In terms of
    It is what it is
    It’s a beautiful thing.
    It’s a good thing
    It’s all good
    Know what I’m saying?
    I’m just saying
    Let’s do this.
    Quality of life
    That being said

  91. Roarin1 says:

    Let’s not forget my dad’s favorite:

    “It’s colder than a witch’s teat out there.”

  92. Kris Boss says:

    - Hell hath no fury…
    – The road to hell is paved in good intentions
    – Drunk as a skunk
    – Old as Methuselah
    – She’s a man eater

    Cliche concepts bother me, too:
    the hard-nosed detective chick who is never taken seriously by her male counterparts… and yet somehow she’s made detective;
    the hooker with a heart of gold;
    sex-kitten cougars who seem to have all the money in the world and are still somehow NOT involved in any kind of relationship (whether married or not);
    the psycho/sociopath who was abused as a child and now takes it out on women/men/children;
    ANY author who is too nice to their protagonist (BORING!);
    the male-bashing, hygiene-challenged, charity-wielding feminist who studies animals and is clearly more genius than anyone else ever.

    Overused words I can’t stand:
    totally, brutal, rad, nice, like, awesome, cool, bro, man.

    Words used in the wrong context… or otherwise used unnecessarily:
    plethora, advantageous, awesome, amazing, hysterical, scream(ed), whispered, smirked, grinned, the color of anyone’s eyes other than blue/brown/green/hazel (emerald, steel gray, etc). Really, any extreme words used for ordinary occurrences.

  93. Beatlefan0109 says:

    Cliches. I Hate the following:

    It is what it is. (No kidding!)
    Looking out for number one. (The only person saying this should be a member of a sports team playing defense)
    Have a good one. (I hated this damn phrase from the first time I heard it and it hadn’t become a cliche yet!)
    It ain’t over until the fat lady sings. (Yogi Bera had a way with words. Not!)

    Cliche phrases:
    “Hooking up” – for anything from meeting a member of the opposite sex (in some cases the same sex) to having sex with that person.
    Statement. “NOT!” (See my last one on the phrase list.)

  94. mhicks6 says:

    “need to give 110%” (or anything over 100% – this really “grates on my nerves”)
    “let’s circle back on that”

  95. annabeth says:

    ‘ever seen’ as in, ‘most beautiful thing he’s ever seen’, ‘the best thing she’s ever seen’ etc (ha, I think ‘etc’ at the end of that sentence is a bonus cliche!)

    That one I mentioned I’m sure I’m guilty of, but it also drives me nuts (there’s another one) because it’s used constantly. Does that make sense? (another one!)

  96. “A word to the wise is sufficient.”

    So,as quiet as it’s kept,
    don’t go there
    for six in one hand and a half dozen in the other reasons
    because everybody who’s anybody knows
    a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
    I’m just saying.

  97. tdogg369 says:

    The possibilities are endless.

    …and the list goes on.

    Nedless to say… (Really? Then why say it?)

  98. Claude Nougat says:

    Great post, wonderful clichés, really enjoyed it, both your post and the (numerous) comments…raining like dogs and cats!! Awsome, ha ha! I’ve been laughing so hard I’m belly up, ugh! Okay, let’s put it this way: clichés are useful in that you could write about just anything using ONLY clichés!

  99. TillieCorinne says:

    “That said…”
    “The lights aren’t all on upstairs” and/or “Got a screw loose”
    “Make my day”
    “Dumber’n a bag o’hammers” (my family uses this ALL THE TIME…)
    “Give them the time of day”
    “Pig in a poke” I have never, EVER seen a pig in a poke; getting poked, yes. Inside one? No.
    “I never kiss and tell.”
    “Give me a break.”

    • Mimiweisbond says:

      Actually, the poke referred to is a paper bag, in the hills and hollers of the rural South.
      What the pig is doing in it, or what the expression means, is beyond my ken.

  100. a.bennett2 says:

    “A kangaroo short of the top paddock” (my husband uses this one just for fun)

    “Having said that,”

    “level playing-field”

    “articulate” used as a verb meaning “say”

  101. TheMcGuffin says:

    Judge a book by its cover
    Best thing since sliced Bread
    As the crow flies
    More than one way to skin a cat
    Easy as pie
    Everything happens for a reason
    Comparing Apples and oranges
    The grass is always greener on the other side

  102. TheMcGuffin says:

    Money doesn’t grow on trees

  103. andreadorn says:

    Sweat like a pig (pigs don’t sweat)
    Eats like a bird (birds eat a lot!)
    Could eat a horse
    AWKS (a new one I just hate, means awkward)
    faster than the eye can see (I used that one recently, oops)
    Classic (seems like everything is “classic” these days)
    Pardon my French
    long story short

  104. MerceyV says:

    Her hair was like gold / her golden tresses.

    Pa-leeeese!! If her hair was like gold she’d have cashed it in by now and gotten the going rate from Rio Tinto or whoever. No man would ever be able to run his hands through it. Give it a rest. She is not wearing a helmet.

    “The dimple in his chin…” or “she dimpled”…

    Pardon my sarcasm but I’m about to vomit. Nobody ‘dimples’. ‘Dimple’ is not a verb.

    The final shocker: “He crushed his lips to hers…”

    Only the most well-seasoned authors should use this. It does not make a B-grade book instantly better. The words either side of this phrase should be exceptionally well-crafted or else it’s completely unrealistic. Seriously, when was the last time your lips were “crushed” against anything?

    Lovin’ the other suggestions above :)

  105. jhorwitz says:

    Brian: How about “as [much] fun to read as [...]” rather than “as fun to read as [...]” in your second sentence above?

  106. KB1976 says:

    I’m sick of “It is what it is”. Well, duh, what else would it be? And, as much as I love How I Met Your Mother, I am so tired of the word “legendary”. I also despise the word “ridonkulous”. I’m not sure where it comes from, but it sounds like it has obscene origins. Another one is “bootylicious”. It’s a combination of the words booty and delicious- did you find that out from personal experience? Not something I care to taste, thanks.

  107. chezgigi says:

    Anatomically speaking, there are many cliches. Is this because cliches reflect our common humanity? Starting from the top and working my way down the body- This is getting sexy!
    1. I’ve got a good head on my shoulders
    2. For meeting a situation head on and facing facts
    3. My ears are burning, and I’m keeping my eyes peeled, but in the blink of an eye, it could change.
    4. It’s jaw dropping, but I’m still sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong, and it might get put out of joint.
    5. It’s better to keep a zipped lip, than have loose lips, which sink ships, but still the tongue wags at both ends, which is difficult when you hold your head high, have your chin up, and keep a stiff upper lip, because butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth.
    6. I’ll still stick my neck out, but I’ll suck it up, eat my words, and swallow my emotions
    7. I’ll get my tits in a wringer, and my ass in a sling, but
    8. I gotta go with my gut
    9. I’ll shoulder the burden and bend over backwards for you
    10. Then crawl there on my hands and knees
    11. So, at least I’ll know I’m all heart as I do my soul-searching
    I’m missing a few body parts, but I’m still working on it-

    • chezgigi says:

      I just realized I’d really be bent out of shape, if I did all these things-

      • chezgigi says:

        I can really sink my teeth into this, while keeping my nose to the grindstone, and be head over heels in love with cliches!

        • Kerr Berr says:

          Haven’t heard tits in a wringer! I need to get out more and explore my potential, as soon as I get my knickers out of that twist. Sounds as painful as tits in a wringer. Anybody said “balls in a vise” yet, lol? Don’t want to step out of bounds or cross the line drawn in the sand, or even steal the show, but we all could stand to get a grip, maintain a hands-off policy, shoot from the hip, give ‘em the finger, grin like the Cheshire Cat, turn the other cheek, live life to the fullest (what would happen if we lived it to the emptiest?!?!), put one foot before the other (or trip over our own feet), show our asses (couldn’t resist), spit in one hand and wish in the other (need soap now), keep our finger on the pulse, and just take a big bite out of life as we spread our wings and shine like a diamond. With our asses hanging out, for all the world to see, not a care in the world, free as a leaf on a breeze, assholes and elbows, taking the reins in hand, getting a leg up on the competition. Shoot, I’m as cliche-exhausted as a man grasping at straws and looking for the silver lining in that black cloud that keeps hanging over me like a tick on a dog’s back. Thankfully I can keep my wits about me and my eyes on the prize. Shew! :)

  108. viv says:

    In Defence of Clichés

    A cliché is a wonderful thing,
    a means of encapsulating
    a truth universally acknowledged.
    Or is it?

    At the end of the day,
    to be perfectly honest,
    safe as houses
    makes much more sense
    than safe as banks.

    I hear what you’re saying
    but I want to move the goalposts.
    When push comes to shove,
    the fact of the matter is that
    we need to think outside the box.

    In terms of ballpark figures,
    a hundred and ten percent
    of what I say
    is pushing the envelope
    of credibility.

    Literally, in terms of
    blue sky thinking,
    the cliché is an awesome resource
    for adding value.

    Let’s face it,
    the mind boggles
    at the crackpot idea
    of doing without.
    the comfort blanket
    of received phrases.

    The long and the short of it is,
    we should all sing from the same hymn sheet:
    and agree the bottom line:
    a cliché is A Good Thing.

  109. Jane says:

    Hoping against hope
    Back in the day

  110. KHager says:

    Elephant in the room and dead as a doornail are the worst!

  111. Athornia says:

    Oh, I forgot to add that she was no spring chicken.

  112. Athornia says:

    She dove in head first and crashed like bull in a china shop. Her life wasn’t coming up daisies because she put the cart infront of the horse. All she wanted was for her ship to come in, but what goes around comes around. Since she didn’t know what side was up, she could try until the cows come home and still fail. Her mom always told her that a guy wouldn’t buy the cow if he got the milk for free. She finally decided to throw caution to the wind because, after all, she is as cute as a button. This story doesn’t make since, because it was written by someone who had lost her marbles.

  113. Dave Taylor says:

    I think cliches have their place in prose in the service of painting a picture of the character in their dialogue. Any character using one of the phrases on my personal sh1t list of annoying phrases will immediately set my teeth on edge:
    5. At the coalface
    4. Horses for courses
    3. Giving it 110%
    2. “Your call is important to us” or anything like it (I agree with Fishesandirt above – this one makes me want to smack the reciever on my desk)
    1. With all due respect (automatically promotes user to the list I keep of people to be slowly and brutally murdered when society breaks down)

    Having said this though there are some phrases which are probably verging on cliche but are fun to use and hear. In Australia we have many of these loitering around the edges of polite speech. My first entry into the WD short-short story competition was almost entirely made up of these (which porbably explains why I didn’t even get a mention…).

  114. puppeterry says:

    Instead of “Comparing apples to oranges” I compare apples to elephants. After all (OOOH! Cliche!), there’s more than one way to skin an elephant.

    (They’re bigger than cats, and you have more options)

  115. AndyLester says:

    Great cliches and comments and I’m certainly going to use some of them in combination with “Haiku”- for my humor writing (hope this is not against the rules of the blog) but to illustrate how this is creative fuel for me, I’ll offer the following http://preview.tinyurl.com/bmy88yu Thanks!

  116. rangeltitanium says:

    “The sky is the limit.” (I, too, have been guilty of using that cliche. It is said way too much, I’ve realized.)
    “Hot as hell.”
    “Cold as hell.” (Is there really any proof that Hell is either hot or cold? Yes, those two cliches have to go, as well.)

  117. jojojoz says:

    How about:

    Another article you may also enjoy on the topic is:

    Any phrase over-used can become a cliche.

    • Mimiweisbond says:

      I agree. That goes for words, too. The more noticeable the word, the worse the crime.
      Wonderful, used twice in the same paragraph, isn’t.
      Heinous, used twice in the same story, is.

  118. Mimiweisbond says:

    Hey, what’s wrong with the Dustbuster Insert?
    And what’s wrong with cliches, when they’re used with irony?
    The key thing is to be able to spot them — they sneak into common parlance like a thief in the night.
    But my pet peeve is when people confuse literal with virtual.

  119. Jennyveg says:

    Loaded for bear
    There’s more than one way to skin a cat
    Keep your head in the game
    Give it your all
    Blind as a bat
    The Lord works in mysterious ways

  120. Miss Jeeter says:

    So many cliches and no where to write. I haven’t seen this one yet –
    “That beats anything I’ve ever seen in my life.”
    Not bad once, but twice is not nice.

  121. M G Kizzia says:

    My wife helps me with cliches because she gets them all mixed up. She once said everything was going to Hell in a breadbasket, to which I thought, well, at least we’ll have something to eat along the way.

    I once had a wizard mention that the servant was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, to which the Queen responded that he was not even the sharpest spoon in the drawer.

    For those who are a bit older, I might mention that I am actually thinking of voting for Pat Paulson for President this year because now that he is dead he does all of his thinking inside the box.

  122. burnssf@msn.com says:

    A writer plucks a cliche out of the hat when he wants a quick picture without added words for his readers to grasp, but does so at the risk of losing the reader because the picture is tired and worn and not worthy of the setting in which he placed it. I choose them very carefully, and sparingly!

  123. Bryan says:

    Can’t stand

    “In real life” he/she is…

  124. Write Like The Dickens! says:

    She wanted to win so badly she could almost taste it. She wracked her brain with all her might, trying desperately to come up with plump, juicy words that burst in her mouth, but the words escaped her. Her brain was fried…grilled to perfection. Feeling like a complete basket case, she wrung her hands and drummed her fingers on the table. “This should be a snap,” she muttered under her breath. Then suddenly it struck like a bolt of lightning: this is it! End of story.

  125. kmaggio says:

    In answer to the question, “Why?”
    Cat fur to make kitten britches; ever see any on wooden ducks?”

    Courtesy of my MIL…she repeats this every time someone asks the question, “Why?”

  126. dbancrof says:

    Okay, I know this isn’t exactly a cliche, but I really, really hate the word “chillax.” How about least favourite slang expressions as a future topic?

  127. Jeanne says:

    I disagree! Many of these “clichés” are time-honored phrases that can be very descriptive. It’s not that we use them, but how frequently and in which situations. They can be helpful, for examples, in novels; if your characters use them occasionally, a sense of time and place can be established. Many great phrases eventually become a bit worn out and clichéd; but, like an piece of art of which we’ve grown a bit tired and place in the attic or an article of clothing that’s gone out of style and is consigned to the back of the closet, these items can be brought out at some future time, dusted off and used and enjoyed again. And, there are others that just always fit perfectly when trying explain something. Creativity is a mix of the old and new, the familiar and unknown. So, I say to my on-line colleagues: not so fast. Just because something grows old there is no need to deep-six it – :). Let’s allow these once-new and clever phrases to live on; after all, there will always be new people to appreciate these old-timers, some of which are real gems. And, in cleaning out our clichés, we certainly don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. :) :)

  128. Vanessa_S says:

    Had a boss who invariably prefaced his arguments with “The truth of the matter is….”
    It drove me nuts!

  129. lanieww says:

    My granny used to say “more than one way to skin a cat.” That always rubbed me the wrong way because I love cats.

    It also “rained cats and dogs.” Sayings like this don’t make sense to a pre-schooler.

    I’m a little tired of “underwhelmed” but I suppose that’s anword, not a cliche.

  130. carolee1968 says:

    “Basically . . .” An innocuous word, because, a thought or action IS or IS NOT. I’ve heard instructors and speakers use this word multiple times in presentations. Also, I note some writers use “basically” in professional article writing.
    The dictionary states “basically” is an adverb; however, why modify a verb with this insipid word?
    Example. If the World is coming to an end, do you say: “Basically, the World is ending”?” No, you’d scream out: “The World is ending!”
    Some speakers and writers use “basically” as an effete attempt to sound intellectual. My opinion is: strong writers and speakers rely on facts rather than self-indulgent modifiers.
    I admit: I tried using “basically” on a few occasions. Each time, I embarrassed myself. I later substituted “essentially”. Equally nauseating. “Just the facts, ma’am . . .”

  131. storygal says:

    I believe there is a time when cliches should be acceptable. When wishing to address the vocabulary of one who would speak in that manner. I wrote a short story and the hero was uneducated. His language was language of an uneducated person. Finding a dead body, he exclaimed that it was dead as a door nail. I hesitated to write it but…that’s the way he would have addressed that fact.So…am I wrong? Should I have had him say something that would never have come from his mouth?

    • Ishmael says:

      It is my opinion that before using said cliché, if it is well-established (with description and other dialogue) that it would be something that the character would say, then use it. I used a cliché to establish a time period…back when it was slang, and not cliché. I’ve also used “Older than Moses” in a Biblical period short as an anachronistic pun. If the shoe fits…put it in the story.

  132. blackeyedfetus says:

    He who laughs last, laughs the longest.

  133. dlcocchio says:

    Great cliches. I love this kind of brainstorming.
    Have you heard… “He’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal”!

  134. dact says:

    “Mind over matter”
    “Money talks and bullish*t walks”
    “Blacker the berry the sweeter the juice”
    “Holy cow”

  135. Kama says:

    I dislike:
    – white as a ghost (maybe ghosts in horror movies once wore sheets, but now they are decidedly dark… And the cliche remains…)
    – …like she’d just seen a ghost (I’d be much more terrified if I saw, say, an axe-murderer, than just an already-dead person in front of me!)


  136. jameswymore says:

    A fish out of water.

    A few cards short of a deck.

    Has a screw loose.

  137. Morilinde says:

    “Beating a dead horse.” Always produces such an unpleasant image in my head. :P

    I also dislike “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

  138. a.bennett2 says:

    Another couple I find unbearable:

    At this point in time

    Singing from the same song-book (similar to ‘on the same page as’)

  139. Bop says:

    havingfun, I completely agree: cliches have their place and are appropriate in some instances. They’ve lasted this long for a reason. Sometimes they are just plain fun.

  140. Bop says:

    “the perfect storm” it’s so overused by the news and entertainment media

  141. debroe27 says:

    Stop on a dime
    He could charm a rattlesnake.
    He could sell ice to an Eskimo.
    He’s sorrier than whale manure on the bottom of the ocean.

    My grandmother used the last one frequently when discussing men!

  142. fishesandirt says:

    My favorite, or least favorite in this case, is when I’m on hold waiting to talk to someone and a lovely lady’s voice comes on every 20 seconds or so to remind me that “Your call is important to us.”

    It goes hand in hand with “Good things come to those who wait.” Everytime I hear it I know that I’m going to be spending a long time waiting for a whole lot of nothing.

  143. JamesSweatt says:

    Lights are on, but nobody’s home. There has to be new ways to say this.

  144. sherechita says:

    I’ve actually used, happy as a pig in sh*t to describe a mother using a cliche on her daughter. Sometimes you can make them work. But there are a couple that I absolutely hate to hear or read the top two;

    Old school (especially when used by a 20 something that has no idea what Old School really is)

    And recently since our beloved President used it in his campaign in 2008, unprecidented. What the heck! Everyone is using it as if there is no precidence for anything. In almost every instance that it is used I can think of at least one instance where precidence had been set. Do they even know what the word means?

  145. films94 says:

    I hate when people say, “that one is for the record books”, i mean who in the world one actually say that, especially when someone did something stupid

  146. dblayne says:

    I hate it when people say they had to wait on line when they mean IN line. Also, one short of a six pack is worn out. Think of something else, please.

  147. G-Girl2 says:

    Yet another horse cliche I missed—what is it with horses? I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising given the role they once played in our lives.

  148. a.bennett2 says:

    Join the dots (particularly when used by politicians)

    Steep learning curve

    It’s all good

    On the same page as

    And one that still haunts me from the 90s – Throwing the baby out with the bath-water. Believe me – it’s still around.

  149. Cristola says:

    The ones that most irritates me the most are: Beauty is in the eeye of the beholder and Beauty is only sskin deep

  150. PFPalm says:

    Additional cliches: (1) up the creek without a paddle (2) Not the brightest bulb in the box (3) Well, aren’t you special. (4) No-one gets out of this life alive. (4) 90 years young (5) What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (6) If I told you that I’d have to kill you. (7) pot calling the kettle black (8) Life is a merry-go-round.

  151. scriptspring says:

    It’s smooth sailing from here.

  152. honeykat says:

    I once killed two birds with one stone
    On a day I was chilled to the bone.
    If you want the straight dope
    ‘Bout that slippery slope,
    Watch out where your wild oats are sown.

  153. mare ball says:

    “You cal lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
    I’m tired of “It is what it is” and “whatever.” Also, tired of hearing “like” and “ya know” inserted in every sentence.

  154. Comparing women to flowers.
    Most pet names for people.
    When heroes finish the battle, they have to sleep for four days because it was so rough (especially in fantasy worlds that don’t have IVs).
    People’s obsession with cutting hot butter.

  155. havingfun says:

    Know what really sticks in my craw? People who start their sentences with “I mean…”

  156. smmorris says:

    death warmed over
    tried and true
    give it the old college try
    hope springs eternal
    eager as a beaver
    bun in the oven
    quiet as a mouse
    as smooth as a baby’s butt
    when it rains it pours . . . cats and dogs
    don’t ask, don’t tell
    you’ve made your bed, now lie in it
    let sleeping dogs lie
    boys will be boys

  157. havingfun says:

    My smart and funny mom used cliches in most of her conversations. I loved hearing them back in the olden days and I occasionally use them now. I will not use them in my writing come hell or high water. (I accidentally did and a friend pointed it out just in the nick of time.)
    Doesn’t anyone out there think that a cliche fills the bill once in a blue moon? Do you honestly always and forever think they are not appropriate. They were coined for a reason. Maybe some of you are still too wet behind the ears to know what some cliches mean. I’m just sayin’…besides, rules are made to be broken. I would be happy as a clam if there weren’t so many rules in writing.

  158. Jules H says:

    Recent cliches that are used far too frequently:

    “Reached out to…” instead of “contacted”
    “iteration” — not really a cliche, but why is everyone suddenly using this word?
    “back in the day”
    “not a problem” — used in response to “thank you” instead of saying “you’re welcome”
    “it is what it is”

  159. ROBERT says:

    A stitch in time saves nine! Who says?

  160. Meg says:

    I gotta tell you…
    you guys crack me up…

  161. The worst one for writers is:

    ‘Get your creative juices flowing’

    It’s so uncreative!

  162. Matthew MacNish says:

    Here’s a tired old cliche: tired old cliche.

  163. Michael says:

    Still haven’t seen
    “It was quiet. Too quiet.”
    (well, now that it’s typed, guess it’s being seen)

  164. Cookiejarnett says:

    Cat on a hot tin roof
    Hot as hades
    Slow as molasses
    Fast as lightening
    Throbbing like a red robbins behind
    That’s how the ball bounces

  165. BM2 says:

    I about gag when I read, “stop and smell the roses.”
    “Gin clear” is so overused in fly fishing articles that when I see it I stop reading.

    If you must use them, mix them up like Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers do with comic strip character, Crankshaft.

    Or, if it fits with a slight change and that change is relevant: “Think outside the fly box” when writing about fly fishing (Fly fishermen keep their flies in fly boxes).

    Great replies here. Enjoy them all.

  166. rampmg says:

    surreal (unless you happen to be talking about Salvadore Dali)
    Any modifying of a number (firstly, secondly, etc)
    Have a great day!

    Ok, but you all have made me rethink our corporate tag line which we’ve had since 1997: “We color outside the lines” and the logo reflects that. Is that too close to the much hated “think outside the box”?

    • Mimiweisbond says:

      I hate to say it, but I think that “color outside the lines” is the cliche someone was trying to avoid when (s)he came up with “think outside the box.”

  167. ccousi says:

    How about drunk as a skunk ( where do they get served?), not a cliche but watch your head( impossible unless you are I front of a mirror)
    I really hate “having said that ” and “I’m just saying”

  168. janwrite says:

    Think out of the box.

    his voice trailed off

    been there, done that

    to no one in particular

    he thought to himself

    azure blue sky

  169. PatB says:

    Who knew?
    Face time
    Booty call
    Sorry about that
    Having said that …

    Some expressions we call cliches are really quotes from a movie or song that have become part of the culture and have endured. Examples:

    “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.” Humphrey Bogart as “Rick” in “Casablanca.”
    ‘Tomorrow is another day.” Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With The Wind.”
    “Live Long And Prosper.” Mr. Spock in “Star Trek.”
    “Go ahead, make my day.” Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry.”

    I write fiction and fictional characters, like real people, tend to use cliches when they talk. Sometimes a cliche fills in for silence. Usually a cliche needs no explanation. Think of it as comfort food for rhe mind during casual conversation.

  170. Paige3 says:

    Here is my list.
    Love means never having to say you’re sorry
    The devil is in the details
    There is plenty of fish in the sea
    Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
    And my absolutely #1 hated cliche is …….
    six of one, half a dozen of the other

  171. Vic says:

    The one I hate the most: reared its/her/his ugly head.

  172. Cookiejarnett says:

    Sky’s the limit
    In my day
    Snug as a bug in a rug
    So over it
    Get over it
    That’s how the cookie crumbles

  173. kynelleharris says:

    “It is what it is.” I don’t even see newbie writers use it.

  174. dwmillersf says:

    Wow. So many cliches listed here, it’s a wonder anyone can NOT write using a cliche!

    Pale as a ghost
    Heart beating like a jackhammer

  175. KarenLE says:

    “In today’s society…” (You’re stalling!)
    “It goes without saying…” (Then why bother saying it!)
    “Going forward…” (How else can we go?)
    This isn’t really a cliche, but for some reason people (politicians especially) keep saying it: “Look…” Listen for it the next time you’re watching an interview show.

  176. Clarissa says:

    Time stood still
    A boldface lie
    At the top of their lungs
    My heart raced
    My mind raced
    Don’t become a statistic
    Free as a birdTime stood still
    A boldface lie
    At the top of their lungs
    My heart raced
    My mind raced
    Don’t become a statistic
    Free as a birdTime stood still
    A boldface lie
    At the top of their lungs
    My heart raced
    My mind raced
    Don’t become a statistic
    Free as a birdTime stood still
    A boldface lie
    At the top of their lungs
    My heart raced
    My mind raced
    Don’t become a statistic
    Free as a bird

  177. kurtpatt says:

    Right as rain

    older than dirt

    The glass is half full/half empty

  178. weberdiane says:

    to make a long story short….

  179. Teresa says:

    You already mentioned my “favorite” – at the end of the day. :) Trite expressions don’t bother me as much as when people misuse the nominative case for the objective case and vice versa.

  180. BeeJaye says:

    Don’t know what would become of the English language without cliches, but I’ll “add my two cents” anyway. Pet peeves:

    dime a dozen – I actually read this in a historical Regency romance e-book once, set, of course, in England where dimes are non-existent and always have been. Editing, anyone?

    dumb blonde – speaking for blondes around the world, it’s just plain insulting.

    fat as a pig – speaking for pigs around the world, yadayadayada.

    couldn’t carry a tune in a hand basket – I said that to my granddaughter recently and she asked me what a hand basket was, which leads me to…

    back in the day – Whose day are we talking about anyway? It’s all relevant.

    mi bad – Need I say more?

    On that happy note, that’s all folks!

  181. s307kingsley says:

    I was briefly tempted by this one today:

    Lock, stock, and barrel.

  182. karenmb says:

    as old as dirt

  183. mikechinea says:

    All that glitters isn’t gold
    Don’t look at a gift horse in the mouth
    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

  184. thisgizmo says:

    Bring to the table,
    as in, we keep you around because of what you ‘bring to the table’.
    hate it, hate it, hate it.

  185. lilvampgurl says:

    Thank you for your helpful list! These cliches I do not like-

    Whatever floats your boat


    Whatever flips your flirts…

    ugh :((

  186. wilakeman says:

    Literally, any phrase starting with “literally.”

  187. michaelene says:

    1) Belly up to the bar.
    2) That shirt is old enough to vote.

  188. romy says:

    Wiser, more experienced writers have been tough on me. “Walking on eggshells” is a cliche in one of my earlier poems. I thought the message in it would be as “clear as a bell”! Then I wrote a short story about “The old dog days of summer”, and when I got my first critique I felt I was “better off dead” than to use that one again.
    But “I am woman, hear me roar” and “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” so I kept writing. Now I’m not so hard on myself when I find a cliche creep into my work “like a thief in the night” and remember that with everything we attempt to do, “Shit happens”.

  189. Piperooni says:

    Kick the can down the road.

  190. eyallow says:

    IMO, there are no standard cliches in writing. It is actually the context within which you use a phrase that determines whether it is a cliche or not.

    Otherwise, what we are suggesting is that we should let some parts of the English language perish. If that was the case, then we would not use any word in English because there is hardly any word that has not been used any number of times. But rather the combination of how we use the words is what creates wonderful writing.

    He looks to me like a doornail standing there.

    To me it borrows from the dead as a door nail smilie. We understand the above sentence only because we understand the latter. But what happens is that most writers when they read the listing above would work very hard to avoid anything to do with a doornail

  191. dalealan says:

    Here are a few “driving me to distraction” wherever that is.

    worldview (everyone’s got one these days)
    global perspective
    ah-ha moment
    ____ czar
    Inside the “beltway”
    significant other (when will we find a better term?)

  192. Lmichaelbooks says:

    I admit, this cliche was brought to my attention today from my WIP manuscript. Whoops.

    “like a ton of bricks”

  193. Sheryl says:

    As we speak

  194. rjshirts says:

    “It was a dark and stormy night”
    “Couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn”
    “Dumber than an ox”
    “Stubborn as a mule”
    the list could go on and on and on.

  195. jacksonlee51 says:

    Black as ink or black as night.

    One that I find rather disturbing is “Funnier than Hell.” Kind of takes away the whole meaning of the concept of Hell.

  196. Lily Ranger says:

    The following is on my ecchhh list:

    Got up on the wrong side of the bed

    You don’t know which side your bread is buttered on

    Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

    The chickens have come home to roost

    From my grandmother: It’s a poor dog that can’t wag its own tail

  197. o Flesh it out
    o When all was said and do
    o About sums it up
    o And these stupid lower case “o” bullet comments that my technical writing editor thinks are ‘just the bee’s knees!’

  198. fulfillingmydream says:

    Go over like a lead balloon.
    Nine lives
    Perfect storm
    Off like a herd of turtles
    Slept like a baby
    Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink
    You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink
    Work like Helen B. Happy
    Baby on board
    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer
    Oh no you didn’t!
    Easy peasy lemon squeazy
    Cry wolf
    Down in the dumps
    Higher than a kite
    Don’t cry over spilled milk
    The air was blue
    Best thing since sliced bread
    Denial is not just a river in Egypt
    Slow and steady wins the race
    You lie like a rug
    Couch potato
    Man Cave
    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
    Catch more flies with honey than vinegar
    A picture paints a thousand words
    Money is the root of all evil
    Boys will be boys
    He’s all boy
    Teach a man to fish…
    Early bird catches the worm
    Meat and potatoes
    Sunny side of the street
    Coming apart at the seams
    Crazy as a bed bug
    Sharp as a tack
    See ya…Not if I see you first
    Today is the first day of the rest of your life
    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.
    If you build it they will come
    Clear as mud
    Second place is first loser
    One step forward, two steps back
    No pain, no gain
    Four on the floor
    Hit the bricks/road
    Built like a brick shit house
    Laughter is the best medicine
    Eyes are the window to the soul
    Lead, follow, or get out of the way
    Hotter than hell
    Colder than a well digger’s ass / witch’s tit
    Squashed like a bug
    Quick like a bunny
    Slow as molasses
    Draw a line in the sand
    Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker
    Can’t fight his way out of a paper bag
    Out like a light
    Lead foot
    Light on his feet
    Moral high ground
    Monday morning quarterback
    Stupid is as stupid does
    Hump day
    Boob tube
    An apple a day…
    Easy as pir
    Sour puss

  199. mwebster says:

    It is what it is.

    Does that count as a cliche?

  200. rtownley001 says:

    McGuffin was like a kid in a candy shop as he selected a .44 magnum from the shelf of weapons. He loved danger. Even though he had been warned to avoid it like the plague, he felt he had to think outside the box and find whatever low hanging fruit was still at the crime scene where they found Benny, dead as a doornail. “If only the walls could talk,” he thought later, looking at the body.

    “Every dog has its day, eh McGuffin?” chimed in the chief walking up from behind. “He and that dame were as thick as thieves, but at the end of the day I guess she figured there are plenty of other fish in the sea and shot him.”

    The chief had dame troubles of his own at home. He sounded like the pot calling the kettle black, thought McGuffin, giving him a sneer.

    “Well, you’d better take the tiger by the tail,” added the chief wistfully, “and get this case wrapped up tighter than a drum for the DA.”

    McGuffin had been up all night and felt like death warmed over, so he decided to head home and hit the sack or he’d be sick as a dog the next day. Maybe this time he’d bitten off more than he could chew. As a kid, his mother always cautioned him to be careful what he wished for. Apparently this time he was going to get it.

    (anyone feel free to continue the story…”A Snitch in Time”

  201. ctroberts says:

    A slippery slope
    Right,wrong or indifferent
    Broaden your horizons
    Oh my god/gosh

  202. AMBWilson says:

    It is what it is. (I used to have a supervisor who used it all the time as code for “you screwed up and I’m not going to fix it.)

    Taking one day at a time

    Time will tell

    Diamond in the rough

  203. yak says:

    “Great minds think alike.” The whole writing industry is based on the assumption that this statement is incorrect.

  204. ceetee says:

    i didn’t see…

    dumb as a doorknob
    cant buy a clue [in all similar phases such as 'here's a quarter...']
    no shit Sherlock!

    but i do feel the real problem is when your writing seems forced since you’re trying to avoid these ‘cliches’. remember, you do not want to lose the ‘feel’ within your writing.

  205. Graelyn says:

    I tend to overuse ‘makes a mountain out of a mole hill’. I’m tired of hearing ‘really?!’ Don’t forget ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’. Let us not forget that classic cliche for starting a story ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.

  206. theconq says:

    Any time a character says something “drily” or “gives a wry smile.” Yeesh.

  207. a_k_anderson says:

    Cliches that are used in business contexts are way worse than the cliches in fiction these days. (I get really sick of people saying “Let’s not try to boil the ocean” at the office.)

    My pet peeve cliches are the positional ones: that idea took a backseat to another, I’ll put this on the back burner, you get the idea. If you’re prioritizing, fine. I get that. But in fiction, your pacing, urgency, sentence length and content should allow the reader to intuit the priorities…..

  208. Sharon says:

    Too good to be true.
    Thought he’d died and gone to heaven.
    Big as house.

  209. Maddy Willow says:

    The lucky seven cliches to avoid…

    1. At the end of my rope
    2. At wits’ end
    3. He’s got an ax to grind
    4. Bad blood
    5. He’s between a rock and a hard place
    6. Be careful what you wish for
    And my favorite…
    7. He could feel the butterflies in his stomach

  210. tbishir says:

    Off the cliff.

    Everyone who uses it should go there.

  211. evwings says:

    team player
    roll with the flow

    And what REALLY bothers me is when people use then in place of than. ie: He is better then that.

  212. Robyn Hoode says:

    Eyes as big as saucers.

  213. jhindman29 says:

    Life is like a box of chocolates (can’t be used anymore too famous for when it was used)
    Fast as lightening
    Fast as a speeding bullet
    Larger than Life
    Quiet as a mouse
    cold as a well diggers butt
    soft as a baby’s skin

  214. jkon50 says:

    It’s all good

    It is what it is

    At the end of the day


    This begs the question (people usually use this incorrectly)

    If that was me

    Excuse me?

    Bring it on

  215. Janie Reinart says:

    Sharp as a tack
    Cute as a button
    The pot calling the kettle black
    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

  216. Cheryl says:

    I agree with many of the previous posts; some I also thought of but many I didn’t.

    Here’s the thing.
    Bottom line.
    Same page.
    Back in a flash.
    Deaf as a post.
    Entry level.
    Cruisin’ for a bruisin’
    Can’t see the forest for the trees.
    Hell ain’t half full.
    Drunk as a skunk.
    Innocent as a baby.
    Busy as a bee.
    Luck of the Irish.
    Crossed my mind.
    Right as rain.
    Happy trails.
    Snake in the grass.
    Pet peeve.
    Racking my brain.
    Wise as an owl.
    Frankly or Honestly. (Not really cliches but overused words).
    Bored to tears.
    A close second.
    So near but yet so far.

  217. Roulf says:

    The one that rubs me the wrong way? (no, not rubs me…) :You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
    Of course you can! You first have your cake and then you eat it! The original phrase was, You can’t eat your cake, then have it too. That makes sense. Once you eat it, it’s gone.

  218. Bethany says:

    I’m really starting to hate anything that has to do with blinking. “In the wink of an eye,” or “I blinked, and . I get why it’s handy in writing, I’m just really tired of reading it.

  219. PrairieElkLabs says:

    “The view from 35,000 feet…” Really? You’d have to have eagle eyesight for that!

  220. capeterson says:

    My skin absolutely crawls when someone says or writes “Take it to the next level.” Where is “the next level?”
    Thanks for letting me “get this off my chest.” (Another irritating cliche!)

  221. SheriGraz says:

    Like a bat out of hell

    Red headed stepsister

    Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

  222. bevova says:

    One I can’t “wrap my head around” is “like a million dollars.”
    As in she looked like a million dollars.

    • Lily Ranger says:

      My aunt added to that cliche. She used to say, “She looked like a million dollars…all green and wrinkly.” Are some cliches or idiotic sayings family specific? My mother and aunt would say “He was so old, he looked like a folded Chinese map.” They had versions of the “standards” like, “stink on shit” instead of “white on rice,” “what doesn’t kill you, maims you badly,” “when the going gets tough, add more tenderizer.” Okay, maybe that last one didn’t count. Oh and I hate to hear people pepper their conversations with “You know what I’m saying?” because usually I don’t.

  223. As good as done
    Elephant in the room
    As good as it gets

  224. SammyG3 says:

    I just retired after 40 years in the corporate world, so there were several of which I had grown tired.
    Here are just a few…………and what they really mean.

    Walk the Walk really means “Quit running your mouth”
    Think Outside the Box really means “So far, your ideas suck”
    Think Bottom Line really means “Who are you going to fire”
    Let’s Flesh it Out really means “I don’t get it”
    I Like Our Synergy really means “You’re a good yes man”

  225. Tiengow says:

    Amazing! — everything is AMAZING anymore
    Game-changer — replacement for Paradigm shift
    Easy-peazy — don’t know where this came from, but it is everywhere
    Mirror image — mostly when people get it wrong. A mirror image is reversed.

  226. CVenzon says:

    Most grating cliche: “It goes without saying.” And yet, the writer goes on to say it.

  227. word use that bothers me is when people misuse “literally.” I was watching television one day and a car commercial came on about “virtually” driving the car and the woman said, “you’re literally driving the car.” Uh… NO! You are only literally driving the car if you are actually driving the car!


    two peas in a pod.
    almost dropped my teeth (???)
    let the cat out of the bag
    get out
    the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
    Can I be honest with you? <~ no, I want you to lie to me!

  228. inbetween_novel says:

    Mine aren’t so much cliched phrases so much as cliched descriptions: a burning gaze, a character looking through their thick lashes – stuff like that.
    I did write “like being caught between a rock and a hard place” once but she was literally trapped between a rock and a person :)

  229. madcapmaggie says:

    Cat got your tongue?
    When the cat’s away, the mice will play.
    Let sleeping dogs lie.
    You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
    Quick as a wink.
    Forty winks.
    Sober as a judge.
    Water under the bridge.
    Water over the dam.
    A drop in the bucket.
    God helps those who help themselves.
    Draw straws.

  230. tylert397 says:

    1. Time heals all wounds

    2. You’re just like your father

    3. You’re only as old as you feel

  231. January Gens says:

    Ignoring “Ignoring the elephant in the room” entirely ;)

  232. lgilb26862 says:

    My pet peeve is ‘one big happy family’. Everyone who says that really means ‘everyone caters to me’.

  233. hgf says:

    In a dog eat dog world
    Every dog has his day
    Sometimes he’s holding the fork
    Sometimes he’s on the buffet

  234. Nathalie says:

    “All I’m saying is…”
    “You only live once”
    “Best thing since sliced bread”
    “The acorn (apple, what ever) doesn’t fall far from the tree
    “As luck would have it”
    “Dog eat dog”

  235. lhinkey says:

    “Back in the day…” ESPECIALLY when used by some 20-something referring to events “back” a year or two ago.

  236. G-Girl2 says:

    A stitch in time saves nine
    That bugs me to no end
    I cannot sew to save my life
    On that you can depend

    A penny saved is a penny earned
    Now where does that leave me?
    I’d like to see Ben Franklin save
    in this economy.

  237. jfmartin1950 says:

    Some that I find useless

    1. ‘Do it for the children’ . . .usually means ‘I don’t want you to think about this before you vote’

    2. ‘It’s the right thing to do’ . . usually means ‘you disagree with me – you bad person you’ and also (see #1)

    3. Serious as a heart attack . . .I actually have funny stories about each of mine

    4. The whole nine yards . . nine yards of what? Why not eight or ten? Do people who use this know what the nine yards are?

  238. Tamara9007 says:

    Off the chain
    Sweating like a whore in church

  239. sandlot says:

    I hate state of the art and I’m getting tired of the use of mulitple instead of sevderal or many

  240. smadronia says:

    It is what it is.

    That is everywhere. But I don’t like hearing it when I’m reading.

    Another one I see a lot is “I know, right?” Maybe it’s not a cliche, but it has been done to death.

    Done to death is another one, along with low man on the totem pole. I am guilty of the last one, but I don’t write it. I say it, because it happens to be a good description of my position at work. doesn’t make it any less annoying though.

  241. teens4 says:

    Over the hill. So “over” that phrase, and not because I myself am over said hill. ;o)

    Full as a bull. How full is a bull??

  242. MSJama says:

    A cliche that bothers me is “reach for the stars” :@

  243. Janeywannabewriter says:

    My current gripes are:
    I flush
    Oh my
    Absence makes the heart grow fonder (a lie – you’re forgotten)
    At the get go
    It’s always in the last place you look (Nope. Not for me. I keep on looking long after I find it)

  244. CedricsMom says:

    Forgot one:
    Don’t get it twisted.

  245. CedricsMom says:

    God willing and the creek don’t rise.
    It is what it is (what does that mean?
    At the end of the day
    If you don’t know, then I’m not going to tell you.
    Knock on wood

  246. demetrius810 says:

    It is what it is
    like a bull in a china shop
    there is no I in team
    numbers don’t lie

  247. writesistah says:

    Oops – I forgot one. The ringleader of them all:

    I can’t wrap my head around that. What the hell does that really mean, anyway?

    Thanks again!

  248. writesistah says:

    The newfangled cliches and phrases really get on my nerves for some reason. Maybe because they are REALLY overused:

    Team player (Ugh!)
    Get it done (Agggghhhh!!!)
    Going forward (AI YI YI!!!)
    Carbon-neutral, revenue-neutral or anything neutral (STOP IT!!!)
    Exactly right (redundant!!!)

    Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I feel better now. :)

    • Jules H says:

      Thanks for expressing my disgust at these phrases, especially “going forward” — see my list of other recent cliches below. I think the new ones are far more irritating than the old ones, possibly because they are used more frequently.

  249. Silverclaimer says:

    One cliche that I’m tired of?

    “When a dog bites man, it’s not news. But when a man bites dog, that’s news.”

  250. ELJ says:

    Older than Moses.

    Whether or not he is at the Red Sea.

  251. darkbanana4 says:

    “Grass is greener on the other side”

    “15 minutes of fame”

    “Every dog has its day”

  252. ckay1009 says:

    “Another one bites the dust”
    “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
    “A penny for your thoughts”
    “Third time’s a charm”
    “A stone’s throw away”
    “A hop, skip and a jump”
    “It’s not over until the fat lady sings”

  253. G-Girl2 says:

    Here’s one courtesy of my husband (I don’t think it was mentioned but. . .)
    “living on the edge”

  254. teriwrites says:

    “Stick a fork in me; I’m done.”
    My mother overuses that one.

    “You can’t swing a dead cat w/out hitting ______”

    I ABSOLUTELY hate this one:
    “Good to Go”
    It’s overused in the military and I cringe whenever I hear it.

  255. Beall Debi says:

    The one that annoys me most is, “With that being said, …” And while it’s not a written or spoken cliche, when people make the quotation marks gesture with their fingers to emphasize a word. Oh I promise I will break the fingers of the next person who sticks their bunny rabbit fingers around a stupid word!

  256. Frostie says:

    The clichè I loathe the most is, “It’s raining cats and dogs!”

  257. Julie says:

    Dumb as stump.

    Poor as a church mouse.

    Ugly as homemade sin. (Not sure whether or not storebought sin is as ugly).

    Sweet as pie.

    Rode hard and put up wet.

    Nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

    Beaten to a pulp.

    Epic fail.

  258. LMGilbert says:

    1. My bad.

    2. Been there, done that.

    3. It’s a learning curve….

    4. Elephant at the table (or in the room).

    5. Disconnect (similar to not being on the same page, cough cough)

    6. lol, omg, and similar

    7. Get with the program (I dislike this one because I hear it a lot…)

    8.Level playing field

    9. All things being equal.

    10. Smooth play, Shakespeare (again, I hear this one too often…)

    11. Smooth move, Exlax (is there a theme here?)

    12. “Awesome!” and now it’s getting to be “Epic!”

    Oh god, I have to add one more, lucky thirteen (oops, is that another one?): Instant Classic

  259. M says:

    “it is what it is” …ugh!! I hate that !!! “everything happens for a reason”

  260. G-Girl2 says:

    Low man on the totem pole
    Higher than a kite
    Over on the grassy knoll
    they say that might makes right

    Tell it to the judge I say
    In for a penny, in for a pound
    It’s either love or money
    that makes the world go round

  261. Jazz Jamel says:

    “in the mix”

  262. ggbrown says:

    monkey on my back, bless her heart, all in all, if you had half a brain youd be dangerous, soups on!, hell nor highwater, id hit that, there but for the grace of god go i, “coincidence, i think not,” these are but a few, seriously, these are but a few!

    last but not least


  263. megwritesstuff says:

    I just heard one today that didn’t make any sense at all in context. It was a “video article” (and why I was watching it, I have no idea) about a woman who hasn’t looked in a mirror for a year (or the year was the goal) and the reporter said “It would take an act of congress” to stop most women from looking in the mirror. That’s just dumb, and most people will do what they’re going to do and don’t care what congress does (if they do anything at all).

  264. May or may not. Doesn’t may automatically imply may not?

  265. whoopitydo51 says:

    It’s like gas, it will pass.
    Tomorrow is another day.
    We all have our crosses to bear.
    It’s not like it was when I was young.

  266. R.M. Willis says:

    Out of the frying pan and into the fire! I really really, hate that one.

  267. Ailora says:

    “Piece of cake.”

    “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

    And the worse (not sure if it’s a cliche or just a very annoying slang phrase):

    “I know, right?”

    Please retire this phrase.

  268. When writers state that a small town has “more churches than stoplights” or something like that. The New York Times reporters seem particularly fixated on the number of stoplights in towns they cover.

  269. A.G. Graham says:

    Irksome: Anything that hangs or is hung by or on “his own petard.” A petard is a small container of gunpowder, an old-fashioned bomb. One can be hoisted, but not hung, by such a device. Overused AND misunderstood.

  270. ckay1009 says:

    I’m new to this site and a little late to post. I saw most of the ones on my list already posted but I’ll leave you with a few more:

    “Like white on rice”
    “Take it to the limit”
    “Pedal to the metal”
    “To the bitter end”
    “Skinny as a rail”
    “Between a rock and a hard place”
    “Raining cats and dogs”
    “Rise and shine”

    And all the ones used to describe the level of a person’s intellect such as: “Not the sharpest tool in the shed” or “Not the brightest crayon in the box”

  271. aviseuss says:

    There are two that I absolutely abhor:

    1. A vicious circle/cycle

    I’ve heard them both unfortunately

    2. I live vicariously through you

    Or any pronoun inserted in the appropriate place

    It’s like people heard the word “vicarious” and thought if they used it in a sentence they’d sound smart.

  272. Ceejae says:

    When I was looking to buy a house some years ago, a for-sale-by-owner, the owner’s attorney actually used the “more ways to skin a cat” phrase about one aspect pertaining to the sale and I was “totally creeped out.”

    Needless to say, I “high-tailed it out of there.” :–)

  273. Julia.aka.Bayne says:

    I have to say the cliche that eats at me most is “normal life” or “normal girl” or, god forbid, “picture perfect”. I see these a lot as an active member of the e-writer community and they are positively the most vexing phrases I see.

  274. Laura S. says:

    Fit as a Fiddle always irks me, as fast as lightning,dead as a doornail, strong as an ox.Some of the cliches bother me more than others but I like ones like pee like a racehorse. They are attached to some interesting memories.

  275. Ceejae says:

    Great subject!

    My all time least favorite is: There is more than one way to skin a cat.

    And for other animal lovers, there is also:

    –Dog tired
    –Don’t let the cat out of the bag.

  276. HuffmanHanni says:

    I’m guilty of this but ‘uber’ in front of any word.

    Like, you know.
    Fast as lighting.
    Solid as a rock. Hard as a rock.
    That is so hardcore.
    Right as rain.

  277. JR MacBeth says:

    I seem to like using some cliches in conversation now and then, but I try not to use them in my writing. I wonder sometimes if that adds some risk to inadvertently using them, since it might be a bit of a habit. The problem being that I may not always catch them, because I’m too used to them. Which is why it would be nice to have someone to read my work. Which is why I like to post on this site, otherwise I might never get feedback.

    The things that personally irritate me tend to be single words, such as, “ginormous”, “ridonculous”, various sordid prefixes that end with “ilicious”, made up stuff basically. It only takes one use and I’m ready to plug my ears, or close the book.

  278. G-Girl2 says:

    You have half a mind to give me a piece
    of your mind, but you’d better beware—
    what you’re giving away freely to others
    is something you really can’t spare.

    You’ve given your all, put your back into it;
    you’ve given it the old college try.
    I’d love to help you brainstorm,
    but I’ve other fish to fry.

    So just hold your horses, get off your high horse,
    Then get on the horse once more.
    Tired of horses yet? No? Well okay,
    I can still think of three or four.

    I eat like a horse, and with little remorse,
    I beat them when they’re dead.
    I have to pee like a Russian racehorse
    (but that’s prob’ly better left unsaid).

    I’ll hitch to the one that is winning,
    and look in its mouth of course.
    You’ll be glad to know, it’s the end of the flow;
    I need to see a man about a horse.

  279. Ms. Sherry says:

    Snowball’s chance in hell
    He’s pushing his luck
    She’s backed into a corner – unless she is literally in an actual corner, facing outward.
    and definitely with everyone on “Think outside the box” – ugh!

  280. Ms. Sherry says:

    Snowball’s chance in hell
    Push my luck
    and definitely with everyone on “Think outside the box” – ugh!

  281. Cat says:

    That’s how I roll.

    It is what it is.

  282. james_coop_1 says:

    A snowball’s chance in hell.

  283. Chrissy says:

    “Ugly as sin” My grandmom and mother overuse it to, lol.

  284. it’s heavier than a dead priest.

  285. G-Girl2 says:

    Oops! Sorry for the “picture” repeat. . .talk about overused. ;+}

  286. G-Girl2 says:

    Blood is thicker than water.
    A picture is worth a thousand words.
    It is what it is. (right up there with “my bad” on my hate list)
    Light at the end of the tunnel
    Sick as a dog
    Scared me to death

    Needless to say ;+} these phrases are all overused.

    • I just used “Light at the end of the tunnel.” I was describing mining and working in the tunnel.

    • hjnielsen says:

      I’m with you on “it is what it is” and “my bad.” I’d also like to add “it’s all good.”

      I think the last two just sound stupid, and the first one is a cop-out excuse for not wanting to explain the situation. I had a supervisor use that one, when I was trying to get an explanation of why it was okay for us to sign a bunch of tax returns for a bunch of different people. We really did have permission from the customers to do it, but she neglected to explain that part and just wanted me to shut up and do as I was told! Sorry, Ms. Supervisor, but that’s how people get into trouble. I want to know why I’m doing something I would normally never do!

  287. knackatory says:

    - “I saw it with my own eyes.” (Who else’s would you see it with?)

    – “Shut the front door!” (I don’t know where this came from, but I suddenly keep hearing it.)

    This is not a cliche, but overuse of the word “virtually” drives me nuts.

    • Derry Cooke says:

      I think where this came from is some lame TV sitcom where a female character says: ‘ SHUT THE F…’ it and the joke is that it seemed like she was going to say: SHUT THE F#$K UP but she just says: ‘SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!’ I know, hilarious.

    • Roarin1 says:

      What about “literally” used incorrectly. My stepson is HORRIBLE about that.

      “I literally will die if I don’t see the new Batman movie.”

      Does that mean I get your XBox?

      • hjnielsen says:

        I hate how “literally” is used incorrectly. And so often at that! “She literally was in ecstasy.” That was a line I recently read in a book. Really? At least I know I can write better than half (or more) of the self-published writers out there.

  288. elclipo says:

    Just a few that come to mind:
    -pain is weakness leaving the body – say that when you rip a tendon or break a bone.
    -sweating like a pig – let’s face it, they don’t sweat.
    -a picture is worth a thousand words

  289. Rooks says:

    How about “Common Sense”? Or any phrase including the words “common sense”…

    -He/She has no common sense
    -It’s just common sense
    -People have no common sense these days

    “Common Sense” is perhaps the most widespread, yet flawed and non existent theory. And as a cliche` it literally makes me sick to hear.

    • mthill2007@gmail.com says:

      Maybe it is sickening to you because “Actions speak Louder than Words” which is prevalent today showing a Universal Lack of Common Sense. mathilwriter

    • jotokai says:


      The phrase “Common sense” is among the most dishonest phrases I’ve ever heard. Boss says, “Use your common sense,” meaning, figure it out yourself; if it works, I’ll take the credit, if it fails, I’ll accuse you of not following directions. Or, he says “It’s common sense that…” meaning, argue with me and I’ll attack you as an idiot.

      If I owned a corporation, there’d be a fine for anybody caught using that phrase- and it would be based on your pay. At best, it means things that are taken as given. In reality, it’s just a bunch of usually nonsense beliefs.

      But I don’t think it’s a cliche so much as a two-word nomenclature.

  290. novels2write says:

    Been there, done that.
    Pretty as a picture.
    A fly on the wall.
    No pain, no gain.
    Hard road to hoe, which SHOULD be hard row to hoe.
    That last one mostly irritates me because it’s almost always misspelled, demonstrating that user has no idea what the cliche actually means or its origins, so besides being a cliche, it’s just plain wrong.

  291. TLC says:

    How about:
    “Pretty as a picture”
    “Sitting pretty”
    “Clear the air” (maybe so someone can address that elephant in the room)
    And my personal least favorite: Taking anything “To the next level”

    • MsRefusenik says:

      Taking it to the next level does make me gag. Others that make me wonder if I suddenly have acid reflux are: alpha dog (referred to a controlling man usually), wears the pants in that family (does anyone dare say that or breadwinner anymore?), worked like a dog (really? Dogs seem mostly to lie around the house and sleep. Is that what you did?) not playing with a full deck, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, elevator doesn’t go all the way up to the top, got a screw loose… … (And who are you? Einstein?) Ivy towers (College, we learn isn’t all that and you can add “isn’t all that” to the list.)
      Leave the comfort zone (everybody talks about it but most people are on the couch with the beer and chips in front of the TV). And if one more damn thing is said to go viral I’ll shoot it. Are we done with bean counter now?

  292. Getty says:

    “Fit as a fiddle” – I’ve always had this urge to giggle when I hear that one. Also, there is “Dumb like a fox.”

  293. Ardent Muse says:

    Maybe these aren’t 100% Cliches by definition, but phrases, nonetheless, that are extremely annoying ~
    1. “That is soooo _______, …NOT!” (Very 90’s, but I HATED it with a passion when it 1st became a trend!)
    2. “That’s UBER-Hot!” (I’ve seen “Uber” used recently even though it’s pretty 90’s also)
    3. “That’s Totally AWESOME!” (WOW! Talk about an overused/overabused Word!)
    (below, definitely cliches-the 1st ones that came to mind-but not all that irritating);
    4. “Address the elephant in the room”
    5. “Let the cat out of the bag”
    6. “Have your cake and eat it too”
    7. “Easy as pie”
    8. “When it rains, it pours”
    9. “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”
    10.” Like pulling a rabbit out of a hat”

  294. Lizabeth says:

    How about “raining cats and dogs”, “loose as a goose”, “drunk as a monkey”, “sober as a judge”, “dumb as a post (or rock)”, “party animal”, “octomom” (octo-anyhing!), and “older than dirt”

  295. jincomt says:

    Cliches or over-used phrases/words:


    clearly (offered at the start of a sentence on why an explanation is the only logical conclusion)

    At the end of the day…

    A bitter pill to swallow

    The weight of the world

  296. brreith says:

    I hate “think outside the box.” Being in the marketing career field, that phrase is way overused.

    I also dislike”everyday life.” Everyone’s “everyday life” is different.

    “Cool as a cucumber.” – That one’s just dumb.

    • jincomt says:

      Oh ugh…I completely agree with “think outside the box”. I used to work at a place that used and abused “collaboration” until I thought I would scream in meetings. Essentially it meant “unless you go along with what we ask, you’re not a collaborator”.

      • HuffmanHanni says:

        I hate both of those and they get so overused in the business world. I’m fine for people challenging people to think creatively and come up with a potential new solution but my goodness, ‘think outside the box’. I blame Taco Bell for that because I think that’s when I first starting hearing it was in their ad campaign and then everybody starting using it.

        And collaboration. I’m sorry but some things need to be worked on solo not in a group with everyone struggling to ‘think outside the box.’

        • Andy Anders says:

          Actually, Taco Bell got it right. They took a cliche and tweaked it to “Think outside the Bun.” Wish I could be so clever.

          My favorites include, “let’s get busy…” “OK, show’s over, nothing to see here…”
          It’s not over til the fat lady sings
          Hi, howya doin’?
          Dog tired
          Sick as a dog (How sick is that anyway?)
          Where’s a cop when you need one?
          Shut up!

    • Missie says:

      Agreed. I’m in the marketing field as well, and I don’t even know how many times I’ve heard that :/ Ugh! Lol

    • Roarin1 says:

      “Think outside the box.” never bothered me until a roommate complained about it years ago. I hadn’t realized how often, as an electronics technician, I said it in trying to get people to think creatively to solve technical problems. I said it one day, and my roommate cringed like he’d been slapped with a rotten herring. For a few days, I actually taunted him with the phrase, finding any way I could to bring it up in conversation. Finally, I overdid it (being the social genius that I am) and he got severely ticked off. We found a new phrase then that he could work with. Now my group of friends says “Step outside the circle.” Conveys the same notion, but doesn’t make him feel like Force choking us all.

      • Laura says:

        I also come from the technical world and have used “think outside the box” for decades. Your roommate must not be a “techie”.
        Anyway, I want to thank you for all the creativity in this one short posting. I especially like “slapped with a rotten herring”. I really hope it doesn’t turn into a cliche from overuse.

    • upnorthwritergirl says:

      Cool as a cucumber has some real merit, even though it is way overused. On a hot summer day, a cucumber is generally as much as 20 degrees cooler on the inside than the air surrounding it.

    • Asiabasedwriter says:

      You have clearly never bitten into a juicy salted cucumber in Delhi when the thermometer is over 40c

  297. valerieormond says:

    Feel like death warmed over….I mean, really, who knows what that feels like anyway?

  298. Jeff says:

    Every dog has its day
    Green with envy
    Fifteen minutes of fame
    Hit the sack/hay
    Crazy as a fox

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