As someone who majored in Journalism, words have always mattered to me. I enjoy writing them, reading them and speaking them; but, I think it is important they’re used properly so as to not risk sounding unintelligent.
I recently came across an article from Business Insider which focuses on this topic. As I read the headline, “15 words to eliminate from your vocabulary to sound smarter“, the thought crossed my mind that maybe there are words I need to remove from my vocabulary as well.
I’ll be the first to admit I am just as guilty as the next person and will use a word incorrectly or make a grammatical error from time to time; I think we should be aware of these mistakes though and learn from them in order to be more succinct in our writing.
Below is a list of words from the aforementioned article to eliminate from your vocabulary, along with an explanation as to why. I honestly hope you read this thing, because it’s good stuff. (See what I did there?) Enjoy it and I hope you think back to this blog post the next time you begin writing!
It’s superfluous most of the time. Open any document you’ve got drafted on your desktop and find a sentence with that in it. Read it out loud. Now read it again without that. If the sentence works without it, delete it. Also? Don’t use that when you refer to people. “I have several friends that live in the neighborhood.” No. No, you don’t. You have friends who. Not friends that.
I went to school. Or the store, or to church, or to a conference, to Vegas, wherever it is you’re inclined to go. Instead of went, consider drove, skated, walked, ran, flew. There are any number of ways to move from here to there. Pick one. Don’t be lazy and miss the chance to add to your story.
People use honestly to add emphasis. The problem is, the minute you tell your reader this particular statement is honest, you’ve implied the rest of your words were not. #Awkward
Adding this word to most sentences is redundant. Something is either necessary, or it isn’t. Absolutely necessary doesn’t make it more necessary. If you recommend an essential course to your new employees, it’s essential. Coincidentally, the definition of essential is absolutely necessary. Chicken or egg, eh?
Accurate adjectives don’t need qualifiers. If you need to qualify it? Replace it. Very is intended to magnify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. What it does is makes your statement less specific. If you’re very happy? Be ecstatic. If you’re very sad, perhaps you’re melancholy or depressed. Woebegone, even. Very sad is a lazy way of making your point. Another pitfall of using very as a modifier? It’s subjective. Very cold and very tall mean different things to different people. Be specific. She’s 6’3″ and it’s 13 degrees below freezing? These make your story better while also ensuring the reader understands the point you’re making.
Unless you’re a Valley Girl, visiting from 1985, there’s no need to use really to modify an adjective. Or a verb. Or an adverb. Pick a different word to make your point. And never repeat really, or very for that matter. That’s really, really bad writing.
If you are visiting from 1985? Please bring the birth certificate for my Cabbage Patch Doll on your next visit. Thanks.
The word means “causing great surprise or sudden wonder.” It’s synonymous with wonderful, incredible, startling, marvelous, astonishing, astounding, remarkable, miraculous, surprising, mind-blowing, and staggering. You get the point, right? It’s everywhere. It’s in corporate slogans. It dominated the Academy Awards acceptance speeches. It’s all over social media. It’s discussed in pregame shows and postgame shows.
Newsflash: If everything is amazing, nothing is.
Absolutes lock the writer into a position, sound conceited and close-minded, and often open the door to criticism regarding inaccuracies. Always is rarely true. Unless you’re giving written commands or instruction, find another word.
Literally means literal. Actually happening as stated. Without exaggeration. More often than not, when the term is used, the writer means figuratively. Whatever is happening is being described metaphorically. No one actually “waits on pins and needles.” How uncomfortable would that be?
It’s a filler word and it makes your sentence weaker, not stronger. Unless you’re using it as a synonym for equitable, fair, even-handed, or impartial, don’t use it at all.
This makes you sound uninformed, unsure of the facts you’re presenting. Regardless of the topic, do the legwork, be sure, and write an informed piece. The only thing you communicate when you include these words is uncertainty.
This word is casual, generic even. It serves as a placeholder for something better. If the details of the stuff aren’t important enough to be included in the piece? Don’t reference it at all. If you tell your reader to take your course because they’ll learn a lot of stuff? They’re likely to tell you to stuff it.
This doesn’t mean what you think it means, Jefe. It means regardless. It is literally (see what I did there?) defined as: regardless. Don’t use it. Save yourself the embarrassment.
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