Are Cliches Bad?

A cliche /ˈkliːʃeɪ/ is a comment that is often used in certain common, everyday situations. It is a comment that most people are familiar with and is therefore not original. Cliches are often used in everyday conversation, and they are also frequently played with in advertising slogans, newspaper headlines and TV news programs. For example:

Advertising 

News

Expect the unexpected We are concerned…
Think outside the box Deep regret
Once in a lifetime opportunity To raise a question
Open the door to success To decide next steps
Original taste Serious impact on…
In business since… Top priority
Our biggest asset is our people Painful issue
We’re professionals To spark heated debates
We go the extra mile for you To be in hot water for …
Conveniently located… To shed light on…

Cliches are an important part of any language. No matter which one we speak, we use them every day. Phrases like good morning, how are you, see you later, I look forward to hearing from you, I’ll keep you informed etc. are just a few examples of cliches. They are expected by the listener or email receiver, even if they don’t realize it. The use of certain cliches is considered good manners (e.g. please accept my condolences, get well soon, congratulationsnice to meet you).

And still, if you search for different kinds of cliches on the Internet (e.g. business, marketing, advertising, journalism etc.), you’ll find a lot of posts about cliches that “must die”, “should be banished”, that you should “cut from your vocabulary” and so on and so forth. So, are cliches bad? Well, not exactly. If you use them wisely, they help you sound natural, convincing and eloquent. Make sure you don’t overuse certain cliches, and find the right ones for different situations.

See how a few common cliches can be used naturally:

  • Look on the bright side. (= try to see something good in a bad situation): Oh, I can’t believe we’re stuck in this elevator! – Look on the bright side! We have some time to think about our presentation before we get rescued. 
  • Hindsight /ˈhaɪn(d)ˌsaɪt/ is a wonderful thing / it’s easy to be wise after the event. (= when you know what happens next, it’s easy to say what you or other should have done): I should have warned her about that man! Why did I say nothing?! – But you know, it’s easy to be wise after the event! No one knew he was such a bastard!
  • It’s not over till it’s over. (= you can’t be sure what will happen until the very end of something): We’ve lost so much time! We’re not gonna make it! – It’s not over till it’s over! Let’s show them what we’re made of!
  • There are plenty more fish in the sea. (= there are plenty more people/possibilities): I wish he hadn’t turned down that applicant. I think he was pretty good. – Don’t worry. We may have made a mistake but there are plenty more fish in the sea. 
  • Give me a break! (= 1. stop being so annoying/ridiculous + 2. stop criticizing me): 1. Give me a break! Why do you have to ask me the same question over and over again? 2. Look at your shoes! When did you last clean them? – Give me a break! Did you see that mud puddle outside? 
  • Ignorance is bliss. (= you may be happier sometimes when you don’t know all the facts about a situation): Did you hear about Danny? – Yes, I did. But Jane, his poor mother, didn’t. And I hope no one will tell het. The news will break her heart! – You are right. Ignorance is bliss.
  • I’ll believe it when I see it. (= I’m doubtful that it will happen): I promise you that one day I’ll be a superstar living in that huge house in Beverly Hills. – I’ll believe it when I see it. 
  • Take it easy! (= relax!): Take it easy! It’s just a test! You’ll never pass it if you are so nervous. 
  • Take your time (= go at your own preferred pace, use as much time as you need): I’m not ready to show you the article. – Take your time. The deadline is not approaching yet.
  • Look alive! (= hurry up!): The train leaves in half in hour! I don’t want to miss it. So, look alive!
  • Good thinking (= you’ve got a good idea): I think we should work on our logo now. – Good thinking, man. 
  • So far so good (= things are going well up to this point): How’s it going? – So far so good. We’ve won two new clients. – Good job!