9 Useless Words You Should Erase Forever From Your Dictionary

9 Useless Words You Should Erase Forever From Your Dictionary

9 Useless Words You Should Erase Forever From Your Dictionary
9 Useless Words You Should Erase Forever From Your Dictionary

When I initially started writing, I was unsure of my writing skills. Meaningless words and fillers filled my sentences. What I didn’t realize is that by utilizing them, I was sabotaging my own work.

Useless words can sneak into our writing from anywhere and at any time—and when they do, they destroy the dynamism of our work.

I’ve rounded up 9 useless words to avoid and some helpful tips for what you can use instead.

1. Really

Example: “The dancer really danced admirably.”

The word “really” is useless. It is used to communicate emphasis, but it fails spectacularly in this. Really doesn’t tell us anything essential and is as inadequate as the description. It’s a ditto example of the way we speak, but it shouldn’t just translate on paper or screen in the same way.

Why you shouldn’t use it…

Considering the actual meaning of the word “real”, real is a fact—it can not be imagined or supposed. It is genuine. When you consider this, you’ll find that the use of the word ‘really’ as an intensifier often conveys more emotion than we actually intended to convey. If you have to use this word, then make sure to do so sparingly as to not lessen its impact.

Thankfully, there is an easy remedy for this problem. “The dancer really danced admirably,” can be changed into: “The dancer performed admirably.”

You don’t lose anything by cutting ‘really’ from the sentence, but gain simplicity and functionality in your writing. Quoting Mark Twain, “Use the right word, not its second cousin.”

2. Use of ‘Things and stuff’

For example: “The article said a lot of things and stuff.”

Why is it a problem? While the writer may have a clear understanding of what “things” and “stuff” they are referring to, the reader does not have any understanding of it to him, it sounds vague. What, Where, Which and How of things and stuff are not explained. See where I’m going with this? There is too much left unsaid and too much left for the reader to imagine.

Kurt Vonnegut, a renowned author often gave this piece of advice: ”pity the reader.” He didn’t disparagingly mean this. What he actually meant was that we shouldn’t make the reader do more work than necessary.

Why you shouldn’t use it…

When using the words like “things” or “stuff”, an additional burden is placed on the reader who then desperately tries to figure out what exactly the writer is talking about. These words are just too vague for the reader to comprehend. The writer/author uses these words to save time and energy, but finally, it ends up injuring both the author and the reader.

Let’s fix the example from above:

Instead, of saying “The article said a lot of things and stuff,” we can say: “The article discussed the principles of interactive design.”

I’ve picked an extreme example to illustrate this one point: specificity rules.

3. Use of ‘I believe/I feel/I think’

Example: ”I believe the teacher has a great point here…”

I had this teacher in my school who wasn’t afraid of telling you just how crappy your writing was. what she told me was an eyeopener. She told me that I don’t need to say ‘I believe.’ They already know it’s what I believe because i was the one writing it.

Why you shouldn’t use it…

‘I believe/I feel/I think’ do not inspire confidence in the reader instead they succeed in doing the vice versa. Their use causes not only causes the reader to question the author’s authenticity but also makes the writer/author sound unsure of themselves, and the topic being discussed. It forces the writer to overuse the pronouns, and that’s terrible news.

Here’s why:

Our choice and use of pronouns reveal how we view ourselves and how we view our relationships with others. In short, it shows our personality to the reader. It’s ok to make use of them where autobiography is concerned, but mostly it only serves to damage your writing.

The use of words like, “I think/I believe” changes the entire focus of the sentence. Focus is shifted onto the author rather than being on the subject, it. It’s like shouting from the rooftops, “Hi, this is me the writer talking, aren’t my opinions great?” It’s not great. You take the reader out of the article, which is generally something a writer should avoid, especially when you are trying to persuade the reader through your writing.

Case in point: “I believe the teacher has a great point here.”

Instead try this: “The teacher has a great point here.”

The power dynamics now shifts. It not only prevents the sentence from sounding wishy-washy it changes the sentence changes to being more confident and it also places the focus back where it belongs.

4. Use of ‘was/is/are/am’

Here we are talking about the difference between active and passive voice. These are forms of “to be.”
Active voice: “Rahul mailed the letter.”

Here the subject (Rahul) is the doer of the action. It is clear what action has transpired.

Passive voice: “The letter was mailed by Rahul.”

In this sentence, the subject has changed to ‘letter’ and is the thing that is being acted upon. The sentence structure is unnecessarily complicated.

Why you shouldn’t use it…

More often Passive voice is used in scientific writing, and that’s typically where it should be. It tends to be absolutely less engaging and urges the writer to use more words per sentence to convey what he/she wants to communicate. Passive voice invariably forces the reader to do more work to get to the same conclusion while Active voice allows for short, punctuated sentences that get to the point straightaway.

Point to be noted: Passive voice does have its place and not every form of “to be” represents a passive voice.

5. Very

Find alternative substitutes every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’.

My sentiments exactly.

Example: “The principal is very interested in finding out more about who started the fight.”

Why you shouldn’t use it…

The word ‘very” is an intensifier it doesn’t communicate enough information to the reader. It is called one of the most useless words in the English language. It is one of those useless and unnecessary words that writers throw in to magnify another word. The only problem is, it doesn’t do that.
If it is so useless a word then how does one avoid using the word “very?” Start with a more descriptive adjective from the get-go. Instead of saying, ‘very good’ say ‘wonderful.’ Instead of saying, ‘very angry’ say ‘infuriated.’
Always bear in mind; your reader’s time is valuable. It pays to be as short and sweet as possible.
Another solution is to cut the word ‘very’ out of the sentence completely.
Again, you lose nothing by doing this: “The principal is interested in finding out more about who started the fight.”
There is a seemingly infinite supply of beautiful words available to writers and let’s be honest, the word ‘very’ isn’t one of them.

6. Use of ‘Suddenly’

“Sudden” or “Suddenly” is another practically weak word to be used.
Let the sentence or the action itself thrust the reader into feeling the suddenness of the action. Ironically ‘Suddenly’ slows down the action and delays the actual impact of the sentence. Tit for the word, either. Just don’t use it. Let the silence speak itself to convey your message.

7. Use of ‘Amazing / Awesome’

These words, ‘Amazing / Awesome’ convey specific feelings. While ‘Amazing’ means – causing great wonder or surprise, ‘awesome’ means-extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear. There are two good reasons to not use these words.

Why you shouldn’t use it…

Firstly, it tells and does not show, that is: telling the reader how they should feel or how the character should feel instead of actually describing it in a way in order to convey that emotion.

Secondly, they are overused. Everything nowadays is either awesome or amazing. Seriously, isn’t it time that you ask yourself the last time you’ve used either of those words to describe something harmless like a hamburger or a delightful chocolate dessert.

If you choose to use these words it’s worth asking if what you’re describing is really “amazing” or “awesome” in its true sense. If it actually is, then you have to find a way of letting the audience feel that. There are alternatives like “neat,” “delicious,” “outstanding,” etc.

8. Use of ‘That’

“That” is a common word that isn’t always weak/useless. However, it’s also commonly used without a purpose. Whenever you feel like using the word, question yourself if there is a better way to do it. For example: “I saw the moon that shone brightly’ change the sentence entirely by avoiding the pitfall of the word “that” by rewriting it to “I saw the moon shining brightly.” The sentence sounds much cleaner now. Also, contemplate “I think that all puppies are adorable.” Just remove ‘that’ from the sentence to make it clean once more: “I think all puppies are adorable.”

Why you shouldn’t use it…

Any time you’re about to use the word, question yourself it there’s a more accurate way of rephrasing your sentence, or if the sentence makes sense without it. If it does, just dump the word entirely and go for the replacement.

9. Use of ‘Started’

“He started running.” “She started dancing.” “The dog started jumping.” All of these sentences with the word ‘Started’ in them are passive and slow. “Started” slows down the sentence and little more. Instead, remove the word from your vocabulary. “He ran.” “She danced.” “The dog jumped.” Any action performed is one started. If you want to sat that the action is a continuing one, then add descriptors after. “He ran tirelessly past the starting line.” “She danced all night long.” “The dog jumped repeatedly.” Each of the above sentences provides a better scope of time than using the word “started”.

Why you shouldn’t use it…

For example, The car didn’t “start”, can be rephrased as “The car roared to life,” If there’s something that has a definite starting time then you can use the word “start”. “I started writing in the 8th grade.” It’s much better to try to avoid these useless and weak words as best you can. There are much better and innovative ways to communicate your point.

Summary

From articles to emails and everything that’s in between the act of writing involves taking the reader on a journey. Each word of the author should move the reader closer to the conclusion of that journey. If it doesn’t, get rid of that word and I swear your writing will be better off for it.