How to write a better cliché – Writing From The Heart

We’re all using clichés like this at the moment and the repetitiveness is making my teeth itch. In this edition of “Writing From The Heart” we take a humorous but nonetheless heart-felt look at how our current clichés are letting us down, and how we can come up with better and stronger alternatives.

How to write a better cliche - some ideas for words that express current sentiments more accurately than some currently in use (humor!)

Unicorns: fat little grey Shetland ponies tarted up with tinsel and a conical piece of plastic tubing stuck on to their browbands.

If the following make your teeth itch, too, read on and we’ll all have a good scratch…while checking out some more sensible alternatives…!

Do you write and speak these Clichés du Jour?

Alexa, Siri et all
Listen, girls. Much as you may think otherwise you are NOT the next best thing to a surgically enhanced Kardashian, although intellectually I suspect it’s a close battle. Call me a boring old fart but I do NOT need you to turn the lights on in my bathroom or find me a B&B in Nebraska. Let’s not be so effing lazy and do it ourselves, if we’re not to descend into even more inactivity that’s responsible for our gross obesity in so-called “developed” countries.

“Challenging?” Nah. It’s DIFFICULT. Don’t be so namby-pamby. (See “Issues,” below.)

Humorous look at popular foods and topics on How To Write Better HTWB


Courgetti can never be a realistic alternative to spaghetti, largely because it almost dissolves in boiling water and looks so much like the discharge down your nose from bacterial sinusitis, that no-one could possibly ever eat it without throwing up unless a) drunk b) stoned or c) vegan.

We’re talking about authorising, giving people responsibility (or getting them to take it on) here: not fitting them with individual turbo-charged engines producing the brake horse power of a twin-engined fixed-wing aircraft. One of those words that sounds a lot more motivating and grand than it deserves.

Engage with
I’m fed up with “engaging” with people, ideas, concepts etc. The last time I “engaged” was in first gear on the command of my driving instructor when I was 17 and ripped every shred of synchromesh out of the poor car’s transmission. What’s wrong with “pay attention to?” “Identify with?” “Adopt?”

“Do not bite the hand that feeds you,” said my dear old Dad, and there’s a lot of sense in not biting the hand that feeds back to you, either. Feedback sounds a little like what a shark pukes up when it has tried to digest a politician or lawyer, and failed, and it’s probably just as unpleasant. How about “Response?” “Reaction?” “Comments?”

Goal setting seen in a humour light on How To Write Better HTWB

Goal Setting

Goal setting
A parlour game popular in the month of January when people, now back at work and missing the fun and hilarity of the recent Festive Season, keep up the party spirit by seeing who in the office can come up with the most realistically achievable goal for the coming year. Examples of recent winners include “make sure the garbage is put out in time every week,” “remember to unplug the coffee machine every night,” and “disinfect the photocopier glass after every time it’s used to make an image of someone’s bare *ss.”

I hope you’re well
No, you don’t. Each time I see someone start with this line in an email or other message I know it’s a softener before asking me to sign up for a course in dog whispering, to buy an apartment in the upcoming resort of Connerie-sur-Merde in the backwaters of Marseilles or to link through to a phishing site. Cut the crap and start with something honest, like “I’m spamming you because I want you to buy…” And I really, really hope you are not well at all.

Funny joke about The Cloud on How To Write Better HTWB

In The Cloud

In the cloud
Ergo, “In Your Dreams.” Somewhere cute and fluffy to which you send your most precious and private digital information on the promise from folks you’ve never heard of that it will be all safe and cuddly up in the troposphere. Despite the somewhat chilly temperatures at those altitudes of minus one-hell-of-a-lot Celsius, some people are still a little sceptical about The Cloud’s security performance. Me too.

They are not issues, FFS. They are PROBLEMS. Get over it and stop being chicken, or at least a politically correct mealy-mouth. (See “Challenging,” above.)

Journey, pathway
Healthcare-speak not for hippies with beatific smiles and flowers in their hair, but patients going through treatment for an unmentionable disease. “Journey” is the treatment and “pathway” is the chaotic, cluttered alleyway patients stumble along in many of the world’s healthcare systems.

What kale looks like - the back end of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

An interesting example of vegetation that looks like the back end of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever having just emerged from a pond full of duckweed and tastes much as I suspect that would. Despite being the next toughest thing to eat after second-hand rubber tyres, even when boiled to within an inch of its life kale has its admirers among health nuts, ketosis practitioners and road building contractors wishing to incorporate suitably “green” reinforcing materials into their tarmac/ashphalt. Give me some luscious spinach or broccoli instead. Please.

Reach out to
This one belongs in the “I hope you are well” category of verbal nausea. Let’s see if we can make it even more sickly, shall we? How about “Extend the gentle of hand of kindness?” Or perhaps “Sally forth with my mind to connect with yours?” (Nah. A bit Shakespearean.) “Stop gawping at Instagram and send you a quick text?” (Too honest.) Or, finally, “Contact?”

Sharing, thank you for
This is a cliché phrase I only ever use when someone has sent me the most revolting, disgusting and hilariously funny email, text or message. Surprisingly this is done with a hint of irony or even *gasps* – sarcasm. On the other hand when the phrase is used without irony, it makes me feel nauseated. Does it have the same effect on you?

Why we need to have a sense of humour about our to-do lists, on How To Write Better HTWB

To Do List

To do list
This is a phenomenon devised by business coaches for the purpose of intimidating their clients into 250-year contracts at exorbitant monthly rates. To date no such client has ever managed to complete the list within the term of the contract. Also referred to as a “Not To Do List,” “What The Hell Do I Do List, “Got To Be Effin’ Joking List,” etc. which probably are more reasonable and achievable notions.

Touch base with
The last time I played softball was as a child in Canada sometime back in the Ming Dynasty. I was terrible at touching anything back then, never mind the ball with the bat, and nothing has changed. I don’t want to touch my friends’ family’s or clients’ bases, thank you very much. I want to contact, drop a note to, give a call to, send a text to, and various other non-metaphorical ways of getting the job done.

Fat little grey Shetland ponies tarted up with tinsel and a conical piece of plastic tubing stuck on to their browbands. Watch you don’t find yourself on either of their business ends because, unlike real unicorns, they don’t sprinkle everyone with fairy dust when approached: they can kick or bite unless you wave your magic wand, say abracadabra and produce a tasty carrot to make them twinkle. (Mind you, that’s nothing compared with what a unicorn could do by poking you with its “real” horn. Hmmm.)

What alternatives to the above clichés would you suggest?

Please share!







  1. This is a fascinating article. I do, however, disagree with your dislike of ‘engage with’. For me, it isn’t equivlent to ‘pay attention to’, ‘identify with’ or ‘adopt’. I know the term is much used in the marketing sphere but I believe its frequency is justified. It suggests ‘getting under the skin of’ our clients, of ‘walking in their shoes’. There’s an empthetic apect to ‘engaging with’ the reader – a sense of coupling or hooking up with them.