Metaphors and clichés: How imagery paints or taints our writing

Modern messaging relies on storytelling, and vivid language lies at the heart of the most compelling yarns. Here’s guidance on how to use playful, vibrant prose to superb effect.

Cliches and imagery in writing

Writers create word pictures, and a picture is worth a thousand words.

Imagery and clichés, such as those above, can enliven your text (or turn off readers).

How can you strike a balance, and how can you ensure that the metaphors you use or themes you adopt are consistent and fully realized—without going overboard?

First, let’s acknowledge that many sayings now deemed trite began as original insights:

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

All that glitters is not gold.

“I don’t like Shakespeare,” an old joke goes. “He uses too many clichés.”

Rather than simply relying on old sayings to stand alone and do the job, a writer might pivot to a new point or understanding, such as was done (successfully, one hopes) at the beginning of this essay. With distinct purpose, the opening paragraphs challenged the comfort of familiarity as a liability, as an undercutting of originality.

Take a different tack

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