10 Essay Clichés to Avoid Like the Plague

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Writing an essay can be a daunting task, especially for people who aren’t English or communications majors. In the heat of trying to finish an essay the night before it’s due, students fall into the trap of writing clichés. To help all you engineers and business majors out, we’ve come up with a list of essay writing clichés that you should avoid like the plague!

1. Starting your essay with a question
Never start your essay with a question. Ever. It’s WAY overdone and unoriginal.
Example: “Have you ever thought about the impact of plastic straws on the environment?”
Try this: “The impact plastic straws have on the environment is astounding.”

2. Starting your essay with a quote
Ugh. Quote introductions are pretty bad too. Don’t start essays with quotes, or even statistics for that matter. Your essay should start with your words, not someone else’s.
Example: “Maya Angelou once said, ‘If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.’”
Try this: “There are some things in life we simply can’t change. In situations like these, the American poet Maya Angelou suggests we change our attitudes instead.”

3. Starting your essay with a definition
Kill me now. Even questions and quotes are better than definition intros. Please, don’t ever submit an essay that starts with a dictionary definition. You will fail. Trust me.
Example: “Merriam Webster defines ‘courage’ as…”
Try this: “Courage is a term that is redefined as society evolves.”

4. Using too many big words
Pretentious much? While it is great to show off your large vocabulary, using too many big words can take away from your main point and may lead you to make more mistakes in the long run.
Example: “It is imperative that we cogitate the providence of the ill-fated maritime turtle at the hands of the malevolent synthetic straw.”
Try this: “It is vitally important that we put thought into how plastic straws are affecting sea turtles.”

5. “It is because of this reason that…”
Using more words does not make your essay better. Being able to express your ideas with fewer words is actually more impressive. I know you’re trying to reach that word count, but trust me, your professor will notice.
Example: “Plastic bags are killing sea turtles; it is because of this reason that people need to stop littering and start using reusable bags.”
Try this: “Plastic bags are killing sea turtles. People need to stop littering and start using reusable bags.”

6. “_____ was the greatest lesson of all”
Nope. This phrase is used ALL THE TIME. It is boring and because it is so overused, it loses its meaning. Showing what the greatest lesson was is much more effective and creative.
Example: “My mission trip to Haiti taught me a lot, but love was the greatest lesson of all.”
Try this: “My mission trip to Haiti taught me a lot about love and how it can be seen clearly even in the midst of poverty.”

7. First, then, lastly
This is especially bad when you use these phrases to start each body paragraph. It is too formulaic. You should structure your essay, but using the same, predictable paragraph or sentence structures gets boring.
Example: “First, we went to the beach. Then, we went to the store. Then, we had a picnic. Lastly, we went home.”
Try this: “Our day trip started at the beach, but ended up taking us to the nearby shops, where we picked up food for a picnic. By the end of the day, we were tired and headed home.”

8. “In conclusion…”
Don’t start your final paragraph with this phrase. If it’s your last paragraph, it’s assumed that it’s your conclusion, so you don’t have to say it.
Example: “In conclusion, I feel that humans have a duty to protect and care for sea life.”
Try this: “I feel that humans have a duty to protect and care for sea life.”

9. Cheating on word count
Does this work? Sometimes. Is it right? No. If your professor finds out you are cheating, you can get in serious trouble. It’s not worth it. Just write more. You can do it.
Example: “You know you can just type nonsense and white it out on your Word Doc to reach the word count, right?”
Try this: “No. I am an honest student and I can reach the assigned word count without cheating.”

10. Clichés
There are dozens of clichéd terms that writers use way too often. Avoid them.
Example: “Well, there are plenty of fish in the sea.”
Try this: “There are plenty more people out there.”

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