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Dear Davidson

Davidson is a certified professional trainer, business coach and management consultant.

Driven by passion, he is an engaging and versatile presenter with over 20 years of experience in the training industry. Over the course of his career, he has trained over 1,000 companies comprising start-ups, SMEs, MNCs, government agencies and others all over Southeast Asia.

Here is your change to ask him a Question or read some of the advice given to others.

Cliches: To use or not to use

In this week’s article, we want to explore what clichés are and whether we should use them in business writing. My training participants and readers alike, often ask me the difference between clichés, idioms and figures of speech like similes, metaphors, and hyperbole.

Let us begin with a short explanation of each:

Figures of speech

A figure of speech is a word, phrase or an expression that conveys an idea using figurative language i.e. language that has other meaning than its normal dictionary definition. Figures of speech make up a large part of the English language. Using figurative language makes the writer more creative and expressive. When you use figurative language, it creates visual imagery for your readers, and this makes your business writing more interesting and memorable. 

However, a paragraph that is loaded with similes and metaphors can be complicated and difficult to understand. So, use figurative language sparingly. Remember that while using figures of speech adds colour to your writing, do not overuse it.


An idiom is a common phrase with a figurative meaning. The meaning is not obvious from a literal interpretation of the words. For example, “don’t be penny wise and pound foolish”, means to be extremely careful about small amounts of money but not careful enough when it comes to large amounts of money. It is also difficult to guess the meaning of this phrase if you have not already been introduced to these idioms previously.

Another example is the way we usually describe a heavy rainfall: “It’s raining cats and dogs”. What do dogs and cats have to do with rain? A native English speaker would know precisely what that phrase means, and it means nothing if translated literally into any other language. Can you imagine translating this idiom to Bahasa? (This is a rhetorical question).

Similes (pronounced sim-uh-lee)

A simile is an expression that uses the words “like” or “as” to make a direct comparison between two things A simile is very similar to a metaphor except that a simile uses the words “like” or “as” to show the comparison. “She is as innocent as an angel” is a simile.

Unlike idioms, similes, can be translated into other languages and make sense. Using similes help improve your writing by adding colour and powerful visualisations that simple sentences cannot provide. Most importantly, similes help your audience connect with your writing and deepens their understanding of your message.

If you notice, similes can often be found in song lyrics, as they let you convey deeper meaning with fewer words. For example: “My heart is like an open highway” from the song “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi or Hit me like a ray of sun” from the song “Halo” by Beyoncé.


A metaphor is a word or phrase typically used to describe one thing but unexpectedly used to describe something different. Metaphors make language interesting and helps create an image in the readers mind. “She was drowning in paperwork” is a metaphor that makes a connection between having to deal with a lot of paperwork and drowning in water.

– Davidson

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