A cliché is an outworn commonplace; a phrase that has become so hackneyed, those scrupulous speakers and writers shrink from it because they feel that its use is an insult to (the intelligence of their auditor or audience.
Clichés range from high-flown phrases (explore every avenue) to quotations ( the two evils choose the least, Erasmus of Rotterdam ), metaphors (the arms of Morpheus), idioms (It’s raining cats and dogs), set phrases (last but not least).
The use of a cliché may sometimes be justified if it is appropriate as regards its stylistic value and the context, and if used very occasionally; a piling-up of clichés is absolutely inadmissible.
Avoid unnecessary words.
Good essay writing implies avoiding unnecessary words. Compare the following examples:
(1) Whenever anyone called for someone to help him to do something, Jim was always the first to volunteer and lend his help for the cause. (2) Whenever anyone asked for help, Jim was always the first to volunteer.
The first sentence is wordy and muddled the second concise and clear. The second variant is also more forceful.
Wordiness means the use of more words than one actually needs to express one’s idea. Certain words such as fact, factor, feature, field, case, character, nature, etc. are especially abused by the lovers of wordiness. Consider the following examples:
Wordy: owing to the fact that; in spite of the fact that; I was unaware of the fact that; the fact that he did not succeed in advertising; acts of a hostile nature; it has rarely been the case that; any mistakes have been made after a short period of time.
Concise: since, because; though, although; I was unaware that (I did not know); his failure in the field of advertising; hostile acts; mistakes have been rare; after a while, presently.
Here is a list of some phrases in common use which should I generally be avoided, as they are wordy. Their concise equivalents are given in brackets: the question whether (whether); there is no doubt that ( no doubt/doubtless that); he is a man who (he); this is a subject that (this subject); his story is a strange one (his story is strange or, more literary and emphatic: he is a strange story)
Quite often a word of classical origin (Latin or Greek) helps us to avoid wordiness, for it expresses in one word what would need a phrase or even a clause in native English, e. g. imperceptible changes — unable to be seen or perceived; provocative arguments — intentionally irritating or designed to produce a strong reaction.
Tautology, i. e. repetition of words and phrases synonymous or close in meaning, should also be avoided. Consider the following examples of tautology. In each sentence either 1 or 2 should have been left out as redundant.
I happened (1) to meet her by chance (2) at the theater. (1 met her by chance…)
That should leave (1) me with twenty pounds left (2). (I should have twenty pounds left.)
Avoid unintentional alliteration.
Alliteration, or repetition of similar sounds in two or more words, is an accepted device in poetry, and, less often, in prose. Unintentional alliteration in prose, however, jars on your ear, distracting your attention from the meaning of the words. Consider the following examples of unwanted alliteration.
He was a most charming chap.
Here a grave grief attacked her.