18 Common Words That You Should Replace in Your Writing
It’s a familiar scene: you’re slumped over your keyboard or notebook, obsessing over your character. While we tend to agonize over everything from structure to backstory, it’s important to weigh how you write something too. A perfectly constructed world is flat on the page if you use feeble, common words. When you’re finished constructing your perfectly balanced world, do your writing a favor and take another pass to weed out these 18 haggard words.
High on any list of most used English words is “good.” While this word may appear to be the perfect adjective for nearly anything, that is precisely what makes it so vague. Try getting more specific. If something’s going well, try “superb,” “outstanding” or “exceptional.”
Another of the common words in English is “new.” “New” is an adjective that doesn’t always set off alarm bells, so it can be easy to forget about. Give your writing more punch by ditching “new” and using something like “latest” or “recent” instead.
Much like “new,” “long” is spent, yet it doesn’t always register as such while you’re writing. Instead of this cliché phrase, try describing exactly how long it is: “extended,” “lingering” or “endless,” for example.
“Old” is certainly one of those common words that means more to readers if you’re specific about how old a subject is. Is it “ancient,” “fossilized,” “decaying” or “decrepit”?
“Right” is also among the common words that tends to slip through our writer filters. If somebody is correct, you could also say “exact” or “precise.” Don’t let habit words like “right” dampen your writing.
Here’s another adjective that falls a bit flat for readers, but can also easily be improved by getting more specific. Saying something is “odd” or “uncommon” is very different than saying it is “exotic” or “striking.”
“Small” is another adjective that is too generic for writing as good as yours. Use “microscopic,” “miniature” or “tiny” instead. Even using “cramped” or “compact” is more descriptive for your audience.
Just like relying too much on “small,” we tend to describe large things as, well, “large.” Specificity is a big help with this one too: could your subject be “substantial,” “immense,” “enormous” or “massive”?
Whenever we describe something coming “next,” we run the risk of losing our readers. Good options to make your reading more powerful include “upcoming,” “following” or “closer.”
Another case of being too generic is what makes “young” a problematic adjective. If you want your writing to be more captivating, try switching “young” out for “youthful,” “naive” or “budding.”
“Never” is also among common words to use sparingly. Not only is it a common, stale descriptor, it’s also usually incorrect. For something to never happen, even one instance makes this word inaccurate. Try “rarely,” “scarcely” or “occasionally” instead.
“Things” is another repeat offender when it comes to worn out words. Another word where specificity is the key, try replacing “things” with “belongings,” “property” or “tools.”
Just like “never,” “all” is an encompassing, absolute term. Not only is “all” unoriginal, it’s not usually factual. Try using “each” and “copious” instead.
“Feel” is also in the company of common English words. Try using “sense,” or “discern” instead. You can also move your sentence into a more active tense: “I feel hungry” could become “I’m famished,” for example.
“Seem” is bad habit word we are all guilty of using. Regardless of how well you think your sentence is constructed, try switching “seem” out for “shows signs of.” “Comes across as” is another good option to give your writing more power.
Another easy adjective to let slip by, “almost” is a wasted opportunity to engage your readers. “Almost” is more interesting if you say “practically,” “nearly” or “verging on” instead.
“Just making” it or “just barely” affording something isn’t very descriptive. To truly grab a reader, we must do better. Try “narrowly,” “simply” or “hardly” to give your phrasing more weight.
Last but not least, avoid using the common word “went” to describe your subject. “Went” is a word that lacks traction. Try using “chose,” “decided on” or “rambled” to truly grab your readers.
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Thanks for this, I realized that I often substitute for those words but it is nice to read it – Also I enjoy reading your blog 🙂
Thank you for the comment, Crystel. Words like that make my day. Cheers!
It’s superb of you to give us a latest way to write after such a lingering time. After all, the decrepit language that is English cannot possibly be used the way is. I know that language changes, and we should look for exotic words to use in our writing instead of being concise. Following, you will most likely tell us that youthful words such as “meh” and “woot” will scarcely be accepted as proper tools. After each, they just don’t sense right, or maybe they show signs of a language verging on change. I don’t know, I it’s a matter of opinion I suppose. And yes, I rambled there.
Short, strong, good, English words, pack feeling, show worth, and strength.
Abbreviated, substantial, sufficient, English utterances, convey sentiment, demonstrate significance, including fortitude.
Did I write the same thing twice? 😉
In other words, use Anglo-Saxon words for clarity; use French and Latin derived words to express subtle nuances.
Great comment, thank you!
No!! “Upcoming”, never! Use forthcoming. It has the virtue of being correct English. The word given is a neologism.
wscottling has a good point. Strunk and Wagnall’s Little Book warns against use of pretentious words when simple ones will get the job done.
Did you mean Strunk and White?
I took a good, long look at all the different things listed here. I feel that when I was a young writer, I may have used a lot of these words. Now that I’m relatively old, I have found new terms to add to my vocabulary. That vocabulary has grown fairly large as I’ve progressed. The change seems small to me, and whether it’s right or not, I don’t want to say never to any word in language. I almost just went out to buy a new dictionary after reading this. I will keep this in mind when I’m writing in the future.
(I attempted to use all 18 words in my missive.)
An informative and educational must-read for writers, this article is wonderful. I’m definitely bookmarking it, because I lean on those 18 words too hard when I write.
Thank you for taking the time to write and share this!
And to be annoying, please delete THAT in your tittle.
I admit that certain words would do better in certain instances, however, if that is not the way your character speaks, would it not be alright to use the latter??
I’m not a supporter of replacing good short words with more elaborate and not exactly synonymous substitutes, especially if the only reason is that some may think them overused. The word one uses should be the word that best does the job.
I love this article .Even many such that are relevant to English .These kind of my subject matter boost my inner confidence .I really thankful for the concerned resource persons for continously inspiring us .Hope in future they also guide us .Excellent work!…
Thank you for adding new words to my vocabulary range. Now i could sound more intelligible.