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Cliché Musings

Cliché Musings

I have a friend who is currently applying to college. Like me, this will be her second college, and having gone through the college application process twice I know how absolutely frustrating it can be. When asked to write a personal statement she said, and I quote, “Essays are hard. I don’t know my personal statement. JUST ACCEPT ME INTO YOUR COLLEGE PLEASE.” And this is a girl who can read at least two huge fantasy books per week and is paid to edit other people’s writing. Part of the reason she was having such an issue with it though, was that all of the college essay guides were urging her to avoid clichés. It’s a fair warning, a recommendation to keep your work original, but something still bothers me. Clichés are clichés for a reason, right? You can like, feel, embody, or use something that’s known to be cliché, it’s not a crime.

A cliché, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Website, is “a trite phrase or expression; also: the idea expressed by it, a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation, something (such as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace” So, what on earth does that mean? I feel like it should be obvious, but whenever I think too much about clichés I confuse myself. What is the difference between a trope and a cliché? Why is one a useful storytelling tool and the other to be avoided at all costs. Have certain things become cliché that really shouldn’t have? I don’t know, I’m honestly asking. This is probably just a part one, I have yet to settle this matter with myself, but I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. So, what do you think?

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Olivia is a creative human who writes for IDEAS and reads many, many books. Got an idea for a guest blog? Email