These should be used as little as possible. Original thinking is much better than one of these overworked phrases.
-gate on any kind of political scandal. Watergate was 40-odd years ago. What possible relevance has it today? What must younger readers make of it? However you have to admire ‘Gategate’ for the Andrew Mitchell affair.
any time soon
anyone for tennis? or ace on any tennis story
at the end of the day
at this moment in time
back in the day: this is a genuine cliche, but also beware of, for example, ‘back in 1960’. If you are talking about the past, you will rarely need to point out that it is ‘back’.
biological clock is ticking, or adding a tautology for good measure, biological time clock is ticking
bad day at the office
blue skies thinking
broad daylight (what is the alternative? Narrow daylight?)
catch-22 situation: If you absolutely have to use it, it should be l/c – use the cap only for the book title.
dreaming spires for Oxford
egg or eggs as a replacement prefix for ‘ex’, often in the context of Easter, such as ‘eggcellent’ or ‘eggstraordinary’. There is not one variation that has not been used thousands of times, and they are all very tiresome.
elephant in the room
every parent’s worst nightmare
fighting for his/her life
fit for purpose
From Russia with Love on any story to do with Russia and romance
game-changer/changing: New but catching on quickly
if I tell you that, I’ll have to kill you
it was worse than the Blitz
it’s a dog’s life on any story about dogs
it’s not rocket science
kept themselves to themselves: I must have seen this at least a thousand times.
leafy, as in suburb; manicured, as in lawn; neat, as in semi-detached home.
learning curve, particularly the steep kind.
Memory Lane, as in ‘a trip/stroll/ramble down’
monkey business on any story about monkeys or, far worse, apes - see my rant in The Natural World
moving on with my life
not a happy bunny
on a wing and a prayer: Frequently used in stories about old planes and those folk who jump off mountains in bat suits. Please stop it.
one in headlines about the Queen or royalty: it might have been smart the first few hundred times, but now it is lazy and boring.
ooh la la! on any story about France or the French.
over the moon
p-p-p-penguin (or p-p-p words on penguin stories): This comes from a 1970s advert. Surely it is time to let the poor old thing rest in peace. It wasn’t funny even at the time.
pool of blood
race against time
same old, same old: Suddenly this is everywhere.
sex kitten, as applied to Brigitte Bardot – yes, some geriatric reporters (and subs) are still using it.
sick as a parrot
singing from the same hymnsheet
the rest is history: often teamed with 'as they say', which doesn't help.
thinking outside the box
ticks all the boxes
tied/tying the knot
to coin a phrase: Often used in an attempt to justify the use of a cliche. It doesn’t work – all you achieve is two cliches for the price of one. It’s no use trying ‘They say that . . .’ either.
tug of love, or even worse, love tug
unhealthy obsession: Can anyone think of a healthy obsession? (Thanks to a former colleague, Jayme Bryla, who came up with ‘an obsession with going to the gym’.)
unholy row: I must have seen this several hundred times in headings and intros about clergy and churches. Likewise Holy Smoke and Heavens Above.
up, up and away on any story about balloons, helicopters or assorted flying objects. This was the title of a truly frightful 60s pop song, and it hasn’t got any better for being dragged out at regular intervals for nearly 50 years. I am begging you.
wake up and smell the coffee
we all love to hate
what’s not to like?
worse than animals as applied to nasty behaviour: I particularly dislike this one as animals do not use violence for its own sake.