Want to improve your writing? Avoid these five over-used words and phrases! These writing tips are from a successful writer who isn’t just my regular guest blogger – she’s a recent Top 10 Blogs for Writers winner. I’ve learned a lot from freelancer Susan Johnston – such as how to increase my blog readership, earn more money writing, and write great conclusions.
“Too often, writers rely on clichés or tired, over-used words instead of coming up with an original way to stay what they mean,” says Johnston. “Sure, most readers understand these phrases with little or no explanation, so it’s an easy way to get a point across. Sometimes it’s acceptable to use these words or phrases if the alternative would be too long-winded (or if you’re satirizing something). But too many worn-out words can sound stale and unoriginal. It’s a lazy shortcut, really.”
Here, she shares several over-used words and phrases for writers to avoid. For more ways to improve your writing, click on How to Avoid English Teachers’ Pet Peeves: Improve Your Writing by Eliminating Common Errors by Cheryl Miller Thurston. And, read on for Johnston’s writing tips…
5 Over-Used Words and Phrases for Writers to Avoid
I asked my Twitter followers to help me come up with a list of words and phrases to retire. Here’s what we came up with…
1. Very. I’m very sick of this word. It doesn’t add meaning. In fact, it usually detracts from what you’re trying to say. I bet that if you took an article or blog post and crossed out every use of “very,” you’d never know they were missing. And the writing would be tighter, too.
2. Kind of. ”Very” uses hyperbole, and “kind of” suffers from the opposite problem: understatement. I found myself typing “kind of” and quickly added it to the list, because, well, it kind of weakens the point. Sometimes it makes sense for dialogue, though, especially if a character is insecure. But writers should avoid it, and use only in moderation.
3. It is what it is. @HOHWWriter and @savebythomas both nominated this phrase, and I think it’s the ultimate cop out! It doesn’t say what it is, so writers use this vague phrase in lots of different contexts. How about just saying (or even better, showing) what’s what?
4. Think outside the box. Another double nomination from @maggieleyes and @WriterFish. Usually when someone uses this term, they are not capable of coming up with a creative idea themselves. I don’t mind when someone riffs on this theme, as in “think outside the cube” or “think outside the bento box.” But unfortunately, when everyone starts using those phrases, they’ll feel hackneyed, too!
5. Just sayin.’ As @SoundCheckMama points out, this expression doesn’t actually say anything. Enough said. (Yes, I just used another cliché!)
What over-used words or phrases should writers avoid? Do you agree or disagree with this list?
For more writing tips, read 5 Commonly Misused Words and Phrases in Writing on The Urban Muse (which I, Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, wrote!).
Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer and blogger who has covered business and lifestyle topics for The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, DailyCandy.com, Yahoo! HotJobs, and many other publications. Want to know more? Check out The Urban Muse or follow her on Twitter.