The way we speak often doesn’t make for good writing. We fill our sentences with more reflexive words – like very or really – than we realize. When written, it can make people wonder why they’re investing their time in your work. Worse still, they might get bored and wonder off, never to be seen again.
We all do this. It often takes a grammar program to point it out to me, even when I believe I’ve been careful. Personally, I’m constantly pulling out ‘just’. This being said, there are places for most of these words and you need to be careful how often you use them, but not necessarily shy away from using them at all.
How To Cut Hundreds of Words From Your Manuscript
These are filler words that are easy to cut from your writing, simply because they aren’t needed – in most cases. Read the sentence and ask yourself whether the word is needed for it to make sense or, if the word slows your writing. Below are some of the worst offenders. Note that these are different than weak or vague words, which we’ll address in another post.
|Down / Up||If someone is sitting down or standing up, the direction of their movement is already implied. Remove these words to avoid redundancy.|
|Just / Only||More times than not, these words can be dropped. For example, “It’s amazing just how many redundant words and phrases I use” would be better presented as “It’s amazing how many redundant words and phrases I use”.|
|That||This word gets dropped into sentences where it’s not needed…all the time! Like ‘just’, if the sentence makes sense without it, drop this word.|
|Of||In the case of ‘off of’, ‘outside of’, ‘all of’, ‘some of’, etc., this word becomes redundant.|
|Really / Very||Just like in this sentence “Do you really need to use that word?” these can normally be dropped. Don’t use them to add emphasis too often as it gets old quickly, and if you can remove it you should.|
|Many cases of these words are reflexive and add nothing to your description. Review sentences containing these and see whether it would be stronger for the subject to do the action, rather than describing how they started the task.|
Other words you should consider: basically, actually, absolutely, completely, definitely, literally, perhaps, rather, totally, virtually, maybe, probably
It Goes Deeper Than This
Other things to consider are weak or vague words that don’t tell the reader much, like when someone ‘feels’ something, or ‘looks’ around. We’ll get into that in a future installment that I’ll link here once it’s written.
Share Your Worst Offenders
What are your thoughts? Should something be added to this Most Unwanted list? Let me know in the comments below with an explanation of why.