Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Idioms and Clichés

1     Idiom Definition: A set expression of two or more words that means something other than the literal meanings of its individual words. (By Richard Nordquist, Guide)
2   Cliché Definition:
A trite expression, often a figure of speech whose effectiveness has been worn out through overuse and excessive familiarity. (By Richard Nordquist, Guide)

a   Idiom: she can’t write (or whatever verb) to save her life, this means that the writer is a bad writer.
b   Cliché: Straw that broke the camel’s back; Live and learn; Kick the bucket; What goes around comes around.

What is the difference between idioms and clichés?
From what I’ve garnered from numerous style and grammar books and the internet, the difference is over usage, and that idioms usually can’t be understood STRICTLY by their wording whereas clichés might be. Sometimes idioms are clichés and vice versa. Okay, that’s clear, right?
When I write a first draft, it’s chocked full of idioms or clichés because I’m in a hurry and know I can change it later. I don’t want to stop to “correct” something or write “wonderfully” in my first draft because I’m on a roll (usually) and need to get the story-bones down. Later there will be time to shift to “great” writing, inserting details, taking out all lazy clichés/idioms. By the time I’m “knee deep” (lol) in my twentieth draft (no lol!)

I try to stay away from idioms and clichés because I don’t want to sound like everyone else. Idioms can be put to good use to get an idea or point across, but sometimes I feel I’m being a lazy writer if I have to use idioms or clichés (except in dialog). I’d rather try and come up with something on my own to portray what I need to get across, like the great Ray Bradbury did. He made up his own idioms and because he did it so well, it didn’t matter that no one else used them, or did they?
Do you use idioms or clichés? How do you make them work for you instead of drawing readers’ attention away from the story? How do you make them your own?
Images from:


  1. I remember, when working on my wip, always getting ready to put a cliche' in....then thinking better of it.

    Now, granted, my novel is set back in the 1930s and, if that's the characters talk...I don't see a problem with it. For narration purposes...especially if it's third person...then, I agree...avoid them!

    Thank you for coming by and leaving me comments everyday...I really appreciate that :)

  2. Me too, thanks!

  3. This is a great post Lisa thank you and wise advice not to overuse the cliche.

    I have to say that I am a bit 'brain dead' right now, 'knee deep' in the A-Z. I love the badge above - cliches - avoid them like the plague!

    I'll link now to yours - or is it better to get by e mail .. I am techno challened as they say in the classics ..

  4. Email is probably easier! I've a place for that right next to the badge from last years A to Z challenge up on the left of my blog. Thanks, and glad you came for a visit! I like finding blogs on the A to Z, which is one of the reasons I do it!


Thank you so much for commenting on my blog. I may not always be able to respond to the comments you leave, however, I appreciate you dropping by and will do my best to visit your blog as well, if you have one!