When is something “clichéd” or “trite”?

From LitWiki

A cliché is an expression that used to be clever, but became worn-out with too much use. Clichés show laziness in composition, a return to the same expressions that have been used by people for generations. Leave these expressions alone; instead, come up with another way of saying what you want to say — something fresh and creative.

Here are some examples of cliches to be avoided:

  • beat around the bush
  • busy as a beaver
  • dead as a doornail
  • kill her with kindness
  • playing with fire
  • water under the bridge
  • since the dawn of time
  • goes without saying
  • first and foremost
  • scratch the surface
  • burning question
  • contrary to popular opinion
  • bite the bullet

Often clichés are so old, they have lost their original significance, like “dead as a doornail.” Clichés can be detrimental to your writing and should be avoided if at all possible.

Like clichés, trite expressions are so familiar in popular vernacular (“marketing speek”) that they have become dull to read and hear. Avoid trite expressions and clichés in your writing: they are inappropriate, tired, and predictable.

Here are some trite expressions to be avoided:

  • startling new developments
  • coming out of the closet
  • good people
  • cutting edge
  • hard data

A trite expression could also be one that is too obvious to have been stated, like:

Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” is a very interesting piece of literature that is often analyzed.

If you can respond to the statement with "Duh!", you should leave it out of your writing.

Composition FAQ