Killing Clichés in Your College Essays

Students rely on clichés because they’re easy - so easy, in fact, that they write themselves.

You’ve probably had this experience: you’re staring at the screen, unsure what comes next, when up pops a cliché: “I’ll always remember the day that…”

Nice, you think. That sounds like writing!

And that’s the problem: it does sound like writing. In fact, it sounds like a lot of writing. In fact - Oh, crap - it sounds like every young adult novel ever published.

That’s why it came to mind so fast - because you’ve heard it six thousand times.

In other words, clichés are bad writing because they’re impersonal: they borrow and repackage other people’s experience. And not even specific other people - just sorta everybody, summed up and averaged out. It’s boring.

Real writing is much harder. It requires you to slow down and pay attention to your own life - to dig around, to recreate scenes, to remember what things actually felt like. It means making your writing as interesting as your life has been.

Kill These Clichés Like Zombies

If you see these guys lurking in your Word doc, delete them with righteous fury:

Never will I ever...

Melodramatic; sounds like a teen novel

I’ll always remember…

How do you know?

I still remember…

You’re young - no big surprise here!

I saw X, and I knew I had to…

Are you sure? Perhaps you just had a strong feeling. Those are very worth trying to understand, but they’re not necessarily the same as knowledge.

I must admit…

You're not on trial. Share what you wanna share, and keep private what you wanna keep private.

The fire burning inside me…

Oh dear no.