Cliches You Can Include In Your Creative Writing (& Why You Should)

Have you ever looked at a piece of writing and thought, “This has a lot of cliches.”? If so, you’re not alone. As any English teacher will tell you, the use of cliches is one of the easiest ways to spot an amateur writer. 

But if they can’t be avoided altogether (and they can’t), it’s best to know which ones are worth using in your creative writing and which ones should stay out. So here are some of my favorite cliches that you can incorporate into your work:

Improve Your Creative Writing: Why & How – YouTube
Key Takeaways
Balanced Utilization: While clichés are often discouraged, judiciously incorporating them can add familiarity and resonance to your writing.
Reader Engagement: Certain clichés can evoke emotions and connections with your audience, enhancing the relatability of your content.
Creative Twist: Experiment with clichés by giving them unexpected twists or using them ironically to inject fresh energy into your writing.
Character Authenticity: Using clichés in dialogue for specific characters can help define their personalities and make them more relatable.
Contextual Relevance: Ensure that the clichés you include align with the tone, genre, and message of your creative work.

One Bad Apple Spoils The Barrel

“One bad apple spoils the barrel.” This is a commonly used expression, and it means that when there’s one bad person in a group, they can ruin everything for everyone else. For example, if you’re at a party with some friends and one of them is being rude or mean to you or someone else, then they could spoil your fun. 

Or maybe if you go grocery shopping with someone who buys all their groceries at Whole Foods instead of Trader Joe’s like most people do they’re going to spoil your experience because it will take twice as long and cost more money than usual!

The idea behind this saying is that groups are fragile things when one member strays from the pack by doing something wrong or different than everyone else does (like buying organic meat), it makes them stand out even more than they already would have been standing out just by being different from everyone else in terms of purchasing habits or political beliefs (or whatever).

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“Reading Between The Lines”

Reading between the lines is a good way to understand what someone is trying to say, but it can also be used in creative writing to understand what someone is thinking and not saying.

Let’s say you’re writing a scene between two characters and one of them says something like, “I need some time to myself.” A reader might think that this means the character wants some alone time, but when they look at reading between the lines in context, they might discover that their character wants space from another person or situation.

“Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen”

If you’re thinking “Too many cooks in the kitchen,” it might be because you associate that saying with something unsavory. For example, if your grandma told her friends that she didn’t appreciate their cooking tips and suggestions, she could say: “There are too many cooks in this kitchen! I should just make my meals from now on.

To Understand Why This Isn’t So Much Of A Problem For Us As Writers, Let’s Look At What Makes Up A Good Recipe

  • A list of ingredients (a list of words)
  • Instructions for how to put those ingredients together (the structure or organization)
  • Tips and tricks for making sure everything comes out delicious (the style and tone)

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“Raining Cats And Dogs”

When you’re writing about the weather, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

Describe the weather. This is pretty straightforward, but it’s worth mentioning again because it helps your reader picture what you’re describing. If it’s windy and raining cats and dogs outside, use phrases that show this effect. 

For example, instead of saying “it was raining heavily outside,” say “the rain was coming down hard on the roof.” That way, your reader can picture what exactly is going on with that roof!

Describe the reason for the weather. Why is it raining so much? What led up to this heavy rainfall? 

This explanation might add some context to your story and help readers understand why certain events happened to each other (like if they were looking at two different characters who are both affected by this event). It also helps build suspense as we wonder how all of these things will come together in our plotline!

“Steps In The Right Direction”

A step in the right direction is a positive thing, but a step in the wrong direction is a negative thing. If you are headed toward your goal, then taking even the smallest of steps will bring you closer to it. If you’re not heading toward your goal, then taking even the smallest of steps will take you further away from it.

Now that we’ve established what these phrases mean, let’s think about why they should be included in creative writing. I believe that they can be used to add depth and complexity to characters and situations without being overly specific or obvious about it—which is why they work so well as clichés!

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“A Penny For Your Thoughts”

This phrase is used to ask someone what they are thinking about. It can also be a way of saying that you are interested in what the person is thinking.

The phrase can be used when someone seems lost in thought, or when you want to know what someone is thinking about something important or personal. In these cases, it’s common for people not to answer the question at all or even acknowledge it was asked! So if your character doesn’t answer this question either, don’t worry too much about it!

“Barking Up The Wrong Tree”

“Barking up the wrong tree” is a phrase that means you are looking for something that is not there or trying to find something in the wrong place. It can also mean that you are looking for something irrelevant, or something unimportant.

For example:

You have a dog with fleas and your veterinarian tells you they’re gone but they keep coming back. You’re barking up the wrong tree because he has no idea what he’s doing!

When I was younger, my dad would always tell me not to bark up any trees when I got angry at him because it wouldn’t help me find what I was looking for and would just waste my time (and probably hurt his feelings).

He didn’t want me wasting precious time on this issue when other things were going on in our lives more important than petty disagreements over chores done incorrectly or leaving socks on the floor.”

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“Keep Your Hands To Yourself”

Say what you will about cliches, but sometimes they’re useful. For example, “Keep your hands to yourself” is a warning that can be applied in all kinds of situations:

When it comes to touching people without their permission: “Keep your hands to yourself,” an expression dating back at least as far as the 16th century and one that is still frequently used today by mothers and teachers everywhere can be applied literally or figuratively. 

The literal meaning refers to touching someone without their permission; the figurative meaning refers not just to physical contact but also to emotional abuse or harmful behavior that could lead to physical harm down the road, such as neglect and abandonment during childhood. In today’s society, this phrase commonly refers specifically (but not exclusively) to sexual misconduct.* While the origins of this phrase are unclear (the Oxford English Dictionary suggests it may simply have been an abbreviation), it seems likely that its original intent would have been understood by all who heard it over time—and thus made it easier for others

“Saved By The Bell”

“Saved by the bell” is a cliche that means something has been saved from disaster. For example, “The boxer was saved by the bell because if he had taken more punches, he would have lost.”

In this case, you can say that “the end of a round of boxing stopped him from losing.”

This cliche can also be used to describe someone who was in danger but escaped because something happened at exactly the right moment: for example, “James got out of his car before it was hit by another car coming around a bend in the road.”

“Falling Head Over Heels”

“Falling head over heels” is an idiom that describes falling in love. It also can be used to describe other things such as going to great lengths for someone or something and being extremely happy. For example, “I fell head over heels for him when I first met him.”

This cliche is so popular because it’s relatable and easy to understand. The only thing you need to remember is that it has two main meanings: one about love and one about going overboard with something else (like food).

“Drive Me Nuts”

When someone says “drive me nuts”, it means that they are annoyed or irritated. You can use this phrase in many different ways to express your feelings. For example:

“I can’t believe she said that! She drives me nuts!”

It’s important to remember that clichés are often overused by writers because they’re easy to understand and use. However, if you want your writing style to be more sophisticated, avoid using clichés like these! Instead of saying “drive me nuts”, try one of the following alternatives:

  • This makes my blood boil (means the same thing)
  • That makes my head spin (same meaning)

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“I Couldn’t Care, Less”

You may have heard it before, or even used it too. It’s a phrase that can be used to convey your level of disinterest:

  • “I couldn’t care less.”

This means you don’t care at all. It’s a good way to show you are not interested in something, or that the statement being made is not true. An example would be if someone came up to you and said “There are 7 billion people in the world!” You might respond with “I couldn’t care less! 

That’s like half of all humans living on Earth today! What? Are we out of chips? Can I go now? I’m busy doing other things.

“On Cloud 9”

You’re always on cloud 9 when you’re with your significant other. Whether it’s because of the way they look at you or because of how they make you feel, being in their presence always makes you feel on a happy high. It’s an expression used to describe this feeling and can also be used to describe any other time when someone is very happy.

It’s often used to describe people who are happy about something that happened in their lives. For example: “When I passed my exam yesterday, I was on cloud 9!”

“Blood Is Thicker Than Water”

“Blood is thicker than water” is a common saying, but it’s not true. This phrase suggests the opposite of what it means to have a blood relative.

While we all know that blood is important for our bodies to work properly and that some diseases can only be passed on through genetic lines (like hemophilia), we also know that our relationships with other people matter more than anything else in life.

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“You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks”

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is one of the most common cliches in all of the creative writing. It means that, if you’re stubborn or set in your ways, it’s impossible to change your behavior. 

Those who use this phrase will often say it with a degree of affection for the old person or animal being referenced; they’re not saying that their grandpa is dumb, but rather that he has his routines and doesn’t want to change them!

The expression dates back at least as far as 1715 when it appeared in John Ray’s A Collection of English Proverbs: “Old Dogs are not Educable.” The idea behind this proverb is that if you’ve lived long enough (and especially if you’ve seen many things), then your experiences have turned into habits that cannot be undone.


Writing is a powerful tool for communication. But sometimes, our words can get in the way of what we’re trying to say. If you’re struggling with finding new ways to express yourself, try incorporating these cliches into your writing. 

By embracing those overused phrases and reinterpreting them in new ways, you’ll find that your work is more vibrant and authentic than ever before!

Further Reading

Explore these resources to delve deeper into the topic of clichés in creative writing and enhance your understanding:

MasterClass – Writing 101: What Is a Cliché? Discover the nuances of clichés in writing and gain insights into when to use them appropriately and when to avoid them. This MasterClass article provides practical guidance for writers striving to strike the right balance in their work.

Writers Write – What Are Clichés and Why Should I Avoid Them? Uncover the reasons behind steering clear of clichés in your writing. This informative article from Writers Write highlights the impact of clichés on your storytelling and offers actionable tips to elevate your creative expression.

Skills You Need – Clichés to Avoid Take a comprehensive look at common clichés to sidestep in your writing endeavors. The Skills You Need resource provides a curated list of clichés along with explanations, enabling you to refine your craft by steering clear of overused phrases.


What exactly are clichés in writing?

Clichés are overused expressions or phrases that have lost their originality and impact due to frequent use. They can weaken your writing by making it sound predictable.

Are all clichés bad for my writing?

Not necessarily. Some clichés can be used purposefully for comedic effect or to create familiarity. However, relying on clichés too heavily can diminish the uniqueness of your writing.

How can I identify clichés in my writing?

Pay attention to phrases that feel generic or lack originality. If a phrase is easily recognizable and lacks depth, it might be a cliché. Reading your work aloud can help you spot them.

Why should I avoid clichés in my creative writing?

Avoiding clichés is essential to maintain the freshness and authenticity of your writing. Clichés can bore readers and hinder your ability to communicate your ideas effectively.

Can I use clichés sparingly without harming my writing?

Yes, judicious use of clichés can be acceptable if they serve a purpose within your narrative. However, strive to infuse your writing with originality and unique perspectives to engage your audience more effectively.