Clichés – avoid them like the plague!

Leaning on a cliché to convey meaning works against you as a self-marketer, salesperson, and relationship builder. This is especially true in your emails, marketing materials, and sales presentations. You know what clichés are, right? They're common analogies and expressions that have become dull and meaningless due to overuse. And when it comes to sales and marketing communication, meaningless is not your aim.

5 tips to avoid clichés: (Titles are for your amusement.)

1. The writing's on the wall. Say what you mean, without flowery, superfluous language. Be specific. Clear, precise wording creates impact. Rather than starting your email or PowerPoint with the title "You Have To Spend Money to Make Money," you could write "The 2 Investments Every Business Owner Must Make Now." Which lead-in would keep you reading?

2. Haste makes waste. Clichés are relied on because they require little thinking. Thinking takes time. Most people are lazy. Hard workers who are smart use their mind to their advantage. When you fail to inject knowledge and notion-enriched thought into your writing, customers will interpret your words as twaddle. Take the time to re-think and replace clichés with mindful verbiage.

3. Cheaters never prosper. Clichés are essentially copying. Remember my most retweeted tweet: "The only company that ever succeeded by copying was Xerox. Be an original." I could have saved the fifteen minutes I invested to craft that quote and re-used the cliché, "Don't be a copy cat." However, I wouldn't have received the same windfall of retweets. (Follow my "cliché-free" tweets: @andyhorner)

4. Too much of a good thing. "He was dead" delivers more force than "He was dead as a doornail". Verbose descriptions diminish the significance and potency of your ideas and stories. Brevity is an attractor of admirers and an attribute of wisdom.

5. Throw them a curve ball. Alter a cliché to give it new meaning and capture your reader's attention. Instead of saying, "What goes around comes around," say, "What goes around doesn't have to come around." Now that you've piqued your reader's interest, elaborate.

BONUS TIP: There are no stupid questions. Think "Jeopardy." Phrase your clichés in the form of questions to give them new life, engage readers, prompt reactions, and ultimately, make it about the reader. The cliché "Let us do the heavy lifting" doesn't carry the same weight as "How much can you lift?"

When you're tempted to reach for a cliché, try one of these tips. It'll return to you — not in spades — but in respect, responses, and revenue.