Twist that Cliché by Rebecca Talley

Let’s do a fun quiz. See if you can fill in the blanks.

A fly on the _______
Old as _______
At the end of my _______
Nip it in the _________
Many hands make light ________
A stitch in time saves ______
Growing like a ______
Like father, like______
Spitting _____
You can say that _____
Bend over ______
The buck stops _____
Build a better _____
Burn the midnight _____
Get your foot in the _____
Keep your nose to the _____
Laugh all the way to the _____
Making money hand over ______
Swim with the _____
Time is _____
Hope springs _____
On a wing and a _____
Hope against _____

Here are the answers:

A fly on the wall.
Old as dirt.
At the end of my rope.
Nip it in the bud.
Many hands make light work.
A stitch in time saves nine.
Growing like a weed.
Like father, like son.
Spitting mad.
You can say that again.
Bend over backwards.
The buck stops here.
Build a better mousetrap.
Burn the midnight oil.
Get your foot in the door.
Keep your nose to the grindstone.
Laugh all the way to the bank.
Making money hand over fist.
Swim with the sharks.
Time is money.
Hope springs eternal.
On a wing and a prayer.
Hope against hope.

How many did you get right? All of them? Some? None? More than likely, you correctly identified the last word in the majority of the expressions.

Why? Because they’re clichés, worn-out metaphors that have become so common they are meaningless.

At one time, clichés were original ways of expressing an idea, emotion, or thought. Over time, however, people used these expressions so frequently that they became trite.

You want to purge clichés from your writing. Instead of using a well-known expression like “counting your chicks before they’re hatched,” try twisting it. Tweaking a word or two can make a difference. Test your creativity by twisting some of the above examples. Or, better yet, create your own unique expressions.

Be careful that you don’t overdo it with original expressions that distract from your story, but stay away from the “tried and true” statements that “everyone and their mother” has heard “since the dawn of time.”

Author: LDS Publisher

I am an anonymous blogger who works in the LDS publishing industry. I blog about topics that help authors seeking publication and about published fiction by LDS authors.

2 thoughts on “Twist that Cliché by Rebecca Talley”

  1. This is a great post, Rebecca. One interesting thing is how outdated some cliches now are. Does anyone burn midnight oil? More like flourescent lightbulbs, I think! And how many people still sew? I can hear some of our youth drawing a total blank at the expression, “A stitch in time saves nine.” I once had a piano student who thought “a quarter after three” meant “twenty five after” because a “quarter” equals twent five cents! Just one more reason, perhaps, to avoid or at least update our cliches!

  2. Nice post on cliches. I’ll have to use it with my writing group as a little exercise. Just found your site, and love it. Got it bookmarked now.

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