Writing Assignment: Working With Cliches

by Randy Murray on August 26, 2011

This week’s writing assignment is as easy as pie. We all know that idle hands are the devil’s playthings, so pick up your pen and put your shoulder to the grindstone.

Yes, today we’re working with cliches.

I remember, way back in high school, when I first read Hamlet. As I was working my way through it I couldn’t help but think, “This the most cliche-ridden piece of hack work I’ve ever read!” It took me a bit to discover that Shakespeare wasn’t the hack I thought he was. It’s everyone after him who reuses his phrases that has made them into cliches.

Cliches, the little phrases, the shortcuts, that litter our common speech and language, aren’t necessarily the poison that English teachers have led us to believe. They’re the way that people talk, and if you’re writing dialog you can’t avoid them without sounding stiff and unnatural. And they do offer shortcuts, easy ways to quickly pull a reader in, to convey complex information.

As long as you don’t overdo it. Limit them to once in a blue moon.

You can also twist a cliche to change its meaning, to redirect a reader, to make them pause and say, “Wait. What?” This is especially useful when you combine cliches in interesting ways. It may help you get out of the woods and into the frying pan.

For today’s assignment, write a short piece packing it with as many cliches as possible. Your object is to have fun, but also try to communicate an idea or thought.

For help finding cliches, use the helpful http://www.clichesite.com/site.


You may leave your completed assignment in the comments section below.

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The Writing Assignment: Working With Cliches by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy August 26, 2011 at 10:03 am

Cliches! How I love and loathe them! :) Thanks for this. I’m going to make a point to do this in my writing journal. Also, I’ve linked this as one of my Friday Writing Favourites so others can enjoy the fun :)


Randy Murray August 26, 2011 at 10:22 am

Thanks, Nancy!

Please consider sharing your example.


Kailan September 7, 2011 at 8:55 am

Hats off to wheover wrote this up and posted it.


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