Everything is Fair in Love, War, and Clichés

You should be as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof if you have just turned in a paper full of clichés. Writing a paper that uses these tired phrases is as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle. Not only are you trying to have your cake but you are also trying to eat it, too. It is possible to turn in a paper loaded with clichés, but if you don’t go the extra mile to be creative in your own right, your paper will fall short of its mark.

Now that you have seen a small sample of clichés, you have an idea of what you are looking to avoid. Clichés are descriptions that were creative when they were first used. Now, however, they are considered boring because they have been overused by numerous people in both written and in spoken contexts. In the way that too many cooks in the kitchen spoiled the soup, too many uses ruins the air of creativity that a phrase once had, making it as old as dirt. No one wants to read something that they have read before. Clichés are best avoided when writing because they are annoying to read and also take the fun out of creating new, somewhat eccentric descriptions.

The best way to avoid clichés is to come up with new descriptions that haven’t been used before. You don’t want to hear someone say that he could perform a daring escape with his eyes closed or with one hand tied behind his back. You want him to attempt to flee from a pack of wild gorillas while wearing noise-blocking headphones that blare Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and a banana suit and jumping on a pogo stick over a rickety old bridge. Which one sounds more interesting to you?

The art of avoiding clichés is to become as creative as possible. In order to do this, you must give your work some time and effort, and most importantly, have fun with your writing.

The Benefits to a Well-Put Together Outline

Imagine you are required to write a paper, as is often required in college coursework. You know what your topic is (excellent start) and you know what you want to say (or, well, most of it) but you just aren’t sure how to organize it or even where to start. Often, putting the first words on paper is the hardest part of writing, and keeping the ideas of a paper organized can be the downfall of even wonderful writers.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

A good outline can help get you started and show you the best way to organize your paper.

Here’s one way to write an outline:

1. Grab a piece of paper, and write down everything you want to talk about in the paper. For example, for a paper about “monkeys” you might write down “habitats” “mating habits” “evolutionary history” “physicality” and others.
2. On a separate sheet of paper, group like subjects with other similar subjects. What subtopics go together? Which ones don’t? If none of your ideas can be grouped together, it’s possible that your subject is too broad: in that case, consider narrowing the focus on your essay to something a little bit more manageable. Instead of writing just about monkeys, maybe choose to write about a specific type of monkey, or depending on the length of the paper, just one of the subjects listed above.
3. Now that you have your grouped together topics, make a list from the most important to the least important. Alternatively, you can organize them by broader topic into more specific ideas. Either way, there needs to be a logical plan in mind. Each paragraph should one focus on one topic before transitioning to the next. Any time you start a new topic, start a new paragraph.

Now that you have an outline, see how easy it is to start writing! The paper now has goals and organization—all that’s needed is to fill in the blanks with words and thoughts—the ideas are already on paper.