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Six words that can ruin your sentence

Crutch words are words that we slip into sentences in order to give ourselves more time to think, or to emphasize a statement. Over time, they become unconscious verbal tics. Most often, crutch words do not add meaning of a statement.

Actually

[ak-choo-uh-lee]

 Actually is the perfect example of a crutch word. It is meant to signify something that exists in reality, but it is more often used as a way to add punch to a statement (as in, “I actually have no idea”).


Literally

[lit-er-uh-lee]

This adverb should be used to describe an action that occurs in a strict sense. Often, however, it is used inversely to emphasize a hyperbolic or figurative statement: “I literally ran 300 miles today.” Literally is one of the most famously used crutch words in English.


Basically

[bey-sik-lee]

This word is used to signal truth, simplicity, and confidence, like in “Basically, he made a bad decision.” It should signify something that is fundamental or elementary, but too often this word is used in the context of things that are far from basic in order to create a sense of authority and finality.

Honestly

[on-ist-lee]

This crutch word is used to assert authority or express incredulity, as in, “Honestly, I have no idea why he said that.” However, it very rarely adds honesty to a statement.

Like

[lahyk]

The cardinal sinner of lazy words like is interspersed in dialogue to give a speaker more time to think or because the speaker cannot shake the habit of using the word. Like should describe something of the same form, appearance, kind, character, or amount. But, very often, it is used involuntarily in conversation, just like um. Our next and final word is not so obvious.


Obviously

[ob-vee-uhs]

This word should signify an action which is readily observable, recognized, or understood. Speakers tend to use it, however, to emphasize their point with regards to things that aren’t necessarily obvious: “Obviously he should have thrown the ball to first base.” What crutch words do you rely on?


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10 responses to “Six words that can ruin your sentence”

  1. wscottling says :

    I use actually and like all of the time. I know it’s lazy, but it’s a habit that’s difficult to break. 🙂

  2. Steve Merrick says :

    My son says “Realistically…” more often than you can imagine possible.

  3. Iskra Dimitrova (@alaeliberae) says :

    I think “like”‘s the most annoying…

  4. lorellepage says :

    I was starting a lot of dialogue with so or oh…I had to change that :S

  5. Ashton Slatev says :

    Adding to the list of adverbs, I hear (and unfortunately use) “definitely” and “absolutely” far too often as fillers.

  6. CCKoepp says :

    Any word overused can become a hazard, but some writers create clunky workarounds to try to avoid Forbidden Words.

    Moderation in all things … including moderation. 😉

  7. ErikC says :

    I’d add “just” and “very”, but for different reasons.

  8. Chiye says :

    I misuse “technically” all the time! Lol

  9. randeroo says :

    The one I’ve noticed is beginning a sentence with the word “So…”, usually in response to a question.

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