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Should I avoid clichés?

Clichés are sometimes the most efficient way to express a complicated idea, but most of the time they are used because the writer has not thought out a better way to convey what he or she means. Certainly in anything but the most informal writing, clichés should be avoided. Originally, the word cliché was a French word for a 'stereotype block or cast' used in printing and, later, in photography. By the late 19th century, it came to mean 'a stereotyped or commonplace expression or phrase'. Examples of clichés are: forbidden fruit, have a nice day, sell like hot cakes. Though cliché is defined as a 'word or phase that has lost much of its force through overexposure', generally we find that clichés are very handy while at the same time are somewhat frowned upon. As Fowler said in Modern English Usage (Burchfield, R.W., ed., The new Fowler's modern English usage [3rd ed.], New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), "What is new is not necessarily better than what is old...The hardest worked cliché is better than the phrase that fails." Clichés are often spoken of in a pejorative manner, as expressions that have become annoying. You will find, though, that you sometimes need clichés when no other phrase fills the bill or when a phrase that others may say is cliché does not strike you as being stale.

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