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Try thinking outside the box!

When it’s all said and done at the end of the day, I can say I made a difference in the world.

Does the above cliché-ridden sentence (taken from a transcript of a 2004 TV show) make you cringe? If so, join the club (whoops, another one). Although it can be hard to avoid them, I don’t like clichés. I especially dislike the fact that they seem to be proliferating – two of my current ‘unfavourites’ are wake up and smell the coffee and what’s not to like. Clichés are like prefabricated chunks of language and are often quite a lazy way of expressing an idea. Whenever I hear on a daily basis, at this moment in time, or to all intents and purposes, I wonder if the speaker has really thought about what they mean or what impression they are making.

To tweak a famous World War II saying: is your cliché really necessary?

Although the media collectively seem to be particularly prone to this ‘clichéphilia’, there are some individual journalists who care passionately about the overuse of stock phases, as this article from the online version of The Australian demonstrates.

Intensive purposes??

Because clichés are increasingly bandied about, people sometimes mishear one and repeat the misheard version in writing, which is a good indication that they haven’t really thought about what they’re saying. For example, recently we’ve seen the growth of the meaningless for all intensive purposes, a mutation of for all intents and purposes.

There are 35 examples of this garbled phrase on the Oxford English Corpus, a 2-billion word database of today’s English. Some of these examples appear in some rather lofty places, such as a scientific journal, where the contributors and editors really should know better. If you really have to use a cliché, then please, at the very least, try to get it right!

Declutter your language!

At Oxford, we like to promote good writing – in other words, the type of writing which gets your message across in the most straightforward way, enabling your audience to understand what you’re saying, and which doesn’t result in steam issuing from the reader’s ears when they encounter a cliché, a grammatical blunder, or some other faux pas.

Here’s our advice on clichés

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