What changed? People don’t have the time or attention span to read more words than they have to.They don’t want to wade through the fluff to get to the facts.
So how do you engage your reader? Keep it simple. Eliminating these overused words will help you write more concisely.
Absolutely: Adding this word to most sentences is redundant. Something’s either necessary or it’s not. Absolutely necessary doesn’t make it any more necessary.
Always: “Always” is hardly ever true. Unless you’re giving written instruction or directions, use another word.
Amazing: This descriptive word is only good in certain situations. It’s been overused to the point where it’s lost its appeal. Find a synonym that lets you be more creative.
Awesome: “Awesome” also has become boring and overused and can be taken as a sarcastic response to something.
Begin (began, beginning to): There’s almost no reason to use this word. “I’m beginning a new job” isn’t as clear as “I started a new job.”
Good: “Good” isn’t good at all. It’s unimaginative and doesn’t offer your reader any information.
Honestly: This is another one of those words used for emphasis. The problem is once you tell your reader a something is true, you ‘ve inferred the rest of your words aren’t either.
Just: This filler word makes your writing weaker. If you’re not using it in place of equitable, fair, impartial or even-handed, don’t use it.
Literally: In the words of John Mayer, “Say what you mean to say.” If it’s literally 10 degrees below zero outside, you don’t need to tell us it’s literal. Your reader will believe you. If you use “literally” when you don’t mean it, it’s confusing. “I’m so busy I’m literally going in a hundred different directions at once.” You may be busy but you’re not going in a hundred different directions at once.
Many: Vague words, such as many or few, aren’t specific enough. If you know the number include it. It’ll make your writing more precise.
Maybe: This makes you sound uninformed and/or uncertain about the information you’re presenting. No matter what your topic, do your homework. Get the facts and write an educated piece.
Most adverbs: Adverbs typically end in “ly” and modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs or an entire sentence. If you take the time, you can find a strong verb that conveys your meaning minus the adverb. “She whispered” is stronger than “She spoke quietly.”
Often: Tell your reader how often. Every day? Once a week? Twice a month? Timeframes are clearer than “often.”
Perhaps: Like “maybe,” perhaps shows you’re unsure of your answer and/or information.
Really: We’re all guilty of using this one too much. Like very, really is used to articulate a point but it’s a weak word that lacks emphasis.
That: Most of the time it’s expendable. If your sentence includes “that” delete it and see if the sentence still makes sense. If it does, leave it in. If “that” refers to a person change it to “who.” You shouldn’t be referring to a person as “that” in the first place.
Thing: Find a word with the same meaning without using this common filler. Here are some to get you started.
Very: While frequently used for emphasis, very is very vague. The weather was very hot today. Eliminate it. It’s not necessary and there are better words to describe the weather.
Went: I went to class or to school or to church or to Boston, wherever it is you’re inclined to go. Instead of went, consider attended, walked, drove, flew. There is a myriad of words to get from here to there. Choose one. Don’t get lazy and miss the opportunity to enhance your writing.
Avoiding these words will improve the quality of your writing. While it’s tempting to use them, think about your reader. If you want to hold their attention be creative. Find those synonyms that will allow your reader to understand your message and visualize what your writing is all about.
Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!
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