Let’s play a game. Read the following conversation and then count as many clichés* and crutch words** as you can find:
Mom: “Hey, sweetheart, how was your day?”
Tommy: “Pretty good.”
Mom: “What did you do?”
Tommy: “Hung out with my friends. Had fun. The usual.”
Mom: “That sounds interesting.”
Tommy: “Totally. Bye, mom.”
How many did you get? We got 6: “pretty good,” “hung out with my friends, “had fun,” “the usual,” “interesting,” and “totally.” As you can see, it’s not just a kid’s problem. Little Tommy’s mom is just as guilty of using clichés and crutch words as little Tommy. On top of being overused, those 6 phrases are so boring. Every person has his or her own unique cliché phrases that they use, and you bet they sneak into your writing.
It’s time for some summer cleaning. Get rid of clichés and crutch words!
Today is a cliché-free day. Every time you hear yourself say a word or phrase that is cliché or overused, stop talking and find a new, fresh way to say the same thing. Instead of saying, “I went to the museum and saw this interesting exhibit. It was tons of fun,” you can say, “I went to the museum, and they had this exhibit about killer whales. And guess what? They had a real killer whale! We took so many pictures. I want to go back tomorrow.” Now do you see how, like, so totally annoying clichés are?
Wondering how this helps with college? The way you talk and the way you write are connected. When you start speaking without clichés, your brain will train you to write without them. It is also very important to learn how to speak without clichés in college interviews. I remember one college interview: it was early in the morning, and my mom and I had already visited a school the day before. The interviewer asked me about a summer trip I had taken. “It was a great learning experience,” I said quickly. Seriously, college applicant me?!? What does that even mean?
*According to Urban Dictionary, a cliché is “almost every line in the Twilight series.”
For the purposes of the 21 Days of Summer, a cliché is “a phrase or expression used so often that it becomes stale.” (At least according to Merriam-Webster).
**Crutch words are words or phrases that do not add to the meaning of a sentence. People use them repeatedly, often without realizing. Common crutch words include “like,” “really,” “totally,” etc. Our favorite at Story To College is “literally.” Want to know why?
Andy: “Dude, I literally just ate like a billion peanuts.”
Rick: “Really? I literally died laughing at that, man.”
If Rick and Andy aren’t using literally as a crutch word, they are in serious trouble…