Avoid clichés

Think twice the next time you consider writing that something is "crystal clear."

A cliché is a “trite or hackneyed phrase that has been repeated so often as to have become meaningless.”[1] Such phrases often contain stale metaphors.

Here are a few examples of clichés that commonly appear in legal writing:

  • It is crystal clear that . . .

  • At first blush, . . .

  • It goes without saying that . . .

  • Defendant’s argument misses the mark.

  • add insult to injury

  • all things considered

  • at the end of the day

  • by the same token

  • distinction without a difference

  • fall on deaf ears

  • foregone conclusion

  • grievous error

  • in whole or in part

  • it goes without saying

  • landmark case

  • no uncertain terms

  • on all fours

  • one and the same

  • open and shut

  • play fast and loose

  • sea change

  • sweeping changes

  • tried and true

When you are tempted to use a cliché, rethink what you want to say and consider whether there is a fresher way to make the same point.

[1]     Garner, Garner’s Modern English Usage 995.

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Ryan McCarl is a partner at the law firm Rushing McCarl LLP and the author of the book-in-progress Elegant Legal Writing. He taught Advanced Legal Writing at the UCLA School of Law. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter as well as his personal blog.