Words to delete from your writing immediately (and how to replace them)
One of the best ways you can make your writing shine is by reducing the number of boring and weak words you use. It’s easy once you build the habit, and it’s also a really useful thing to add to your proofreading checklist. If you can figure out your weak words and then add them to your checklist so you remember to edit them out, you’ll see your writing become stronger and more vibrant.
I’m going to get this disclaimer out of the way before I start: Sometimes you’ll have to use these words. It would be almost impossible to completely remove get from your vocabulary—and you wouldn’t want to, either—but keeping them in mind, even if you can’t always delete them, will help you to improve your writing.
@@Want stronger, clearer writing? Check out these words you should delete from your writing.@@
What are fancypants words? Here are some:
- utilise (use use instead)
- amongst (use among instead)
- whilst (use while instead)
- within (use in instead).
The rise of plain language means that writers are now increasingly choosing simple, clear words over their fancypants counterparts—because using utilise instead of use is just silly. What does it add? Nothing! Nothing at all! If you’re interested in finding out more about plain language, this is a great place to start.
Putting my cranky pants on for just a moment: Get is a lazy word. /crankypantsrant
But seriously. It is. You can almost always replace get with a word that packs a much bigger punch. My only word of warning would be to keep a balance—you don’t want to sound like you’ve swallowed a dictionary. If you’ve used a lot of gets in a piece, you might consider replacing half of them, or whatever sounds natural.
- get my free checklist becomes grab my free checklist
- when she got to the shops becomes when she arrived at the shops
- get in the habit becomes build the habit (I came up with this example because I wrote get in the habit in my blog post intro above… and then realised I had to change that! We all do it. The important thing is to know you’re doing it so you can make it better.)
Although, like get, you wouldn’t want to replace put all the time, it’s a good one to watch—often it can be replaced with something a lot better.
- put some time into working on your writing becomes invest some time into working on your writing
I’ll admit that I’m a huge fan of using really, but I’ll defend myself by saying that when I use really, it’s because I feel that it contributes to my voice in the piece I’m writing.
There’s a saying that if you have to use the word very, the adjective that follows is too weak—and I think that’s often true. If you’re using really or very, you might consider either just deleting really/very or replacing it (and the word/phrase that follows) with a more descriptive word.
- very angry becomes enraged, livid, vexed
- very happy becomes delirious, delighted, gleeful
- very sad becomes sorrowful, despairing, inconsolable
See the difference there? The second set of words are more precise, and they each bring something a little bit different. Vexed, to me, sounds like how an evil mastermind feels after their plot has been foiled; livid sounds more like the emotion of someone who struggles to keep their temper in check and has just been tricked out of some money.
In trying to avoid the words very and really, you might just end up finding the perfect word.
Your pause words
Pause words or filler phrases are the words that slip in when you’re thinking. Although they’re useful when you’re speaking, because you can stall while your brain catches up, you don’t need these words in your writing. They pad your writing and stop you from getting your message across clearly.
Some common pause words/phrases that appear in writing include:
- you know
- weasel words (more about these below)
- I think.
Unless you’re purposely using them to contribute to your voice, and they’re in your brand word bank, you can probably delete them without losing too much.
I’ve written about weasel words quite a lot—they’re in the Unboring Your Writing mini-course, Blog in Bloom, and they also pop up in quite a few blog posts. I write about them a lot because I think they’re an easy thing to remove from your writing, and they make a huge difference.
Weasel words are weak words that have no real meaning and only clog up your writing. Sometimes you insert them into your writing instinctively because you use them when you’re talking—but they have no place in writing.
They’re words like:
- This project is essentially just a combination of our skills.
The good news is that they’re easy to eliminate. All you have to do is go through your writing and delete anything that doesn’t add meaning and qualifies your message, like in the example above. If essentially and just are cut, does it change the meaning? Does the sentence lose anything? Nope. Cut!
Know you use some of these weak words in your writing? Try adding them to your proofreading checklist so you remember to check for them in your writing, and let me know how it goes.
@@ Words to delete from your writing immediately (and how to replace them).@@