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9 Words and Phrases to Delete From Your Writing

December 4, 2013 | Editing, Literary Trends, Writing, Writing Tips | 29 comments | Author:

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When authors use “filler” words—words that slow the pace, add unnecessary emphasis, add wordiness, etc.—it can be detrimental to the readers’ experience! Filler words can be the difference between a “I couldn’t put this book down!” review and a “This book was really slow . . . I had to stop reading because I couldn’t get into it” review. Filler words are often invisible to the author in revision. Authors might just see the great storyline or the great content and pay less attention to the words used to tell the story or the content. Here are some of the words and phrases you should cut to make your writing more effective:

 

  1. Basically. This word will not contribute anything to your sentences but the addition of an extra word. If it’s not essential to the meaning of the sentence, ditch it.
  2. A lot. Unless you say exactly how much “a lot” it, try to avoid using it.
  3. So as to/in order to. Using to is much more succinct. For example, “Get there early so as to find a good seat.”
  4. Very. Mark Twain said it best; “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
  5. Additionally. This is a poor transition word and is unnecessary in most writing styles.
  6. Seem. Seem can be vague and too open to the reader’s interpretation. Use more secure words, such as is, to make sure that your point is clear.
  7. Really. There are better words to use to convey importance, value, etc. Try deleting it from your sentences and they will most likely sound better!
  8. In addition to. It’s better to use also or as well because they have the same meaning but sound more succinct.
  9. Literally. It’s no secret that this is everyone’s “word to hate” this year. And for good reason! It’s not always used properly and even when it is, it’s not needed.

 

While these tips can apply to any writing, there are some authors that intentionally break the grammar rules and this is okay! It all depends on how you want your writing to sound. But keep in mind that these tips can help you eliminate any wordiness and cliché sentences.

 

Are there any phrases that you’re sick of reading? Share some with us!


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29 COMMENTS


  • Jason Matthews December 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Reply

    Less is more. We don’t need to write like we speak.


    1. Wise, Ink. December 5, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Reply

      Couldn’t agree more Jason! Thanks for the comment!


  • Onisha Ellis December 4, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Reply

    These words are considered tabu for writing yet we speak them every day. Maybe we shouldn’t speak them either.


    1. Wise, Ink. December 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Reply

      Hmmm…you’re probably right about that!


  • Adam Henig December 4, 2013 at 10:10 pm | Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Wise, Ink. December 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Reply

      Thanks for the comment Adam!


  • Serita Stevens December 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Reply

    Write actively and not passively. Instead of she is running, she ran or runs. Avoid “ings” and “is” or “are”. Try to rearrange your sentences to be more active. Use proper words that mean what you say, not she walks but she struts or shuffles into the room.


  • Talk to me...I'm your Mother December 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Reply

    Good advice. I hope I can keep the faith!


  • Jane Burnett December 9, 2013 at 11:19 am | Reply

    Quite useful! A phrase I’m sick of hearing is “trying to say” as in “Shakespeare is trying to say.” Since when do we presume to say what Shakespeare only tried?


  • Donna J Weinson December 11, 2013 at 9:28 am | Reply

    How about using “while” when you mean “although”? ;) Also “since” when you mean “because,” and “on the other hand” when there is no first hand. The list goes on.


  • Liberty Speidel (@LibertySpeidel) December 11, 2013 at 11:44 am | Reply

    I have to make a concerted effort to remove “just” from my manuscripts. It’s always there, and in way too large a quantity! Usually, I find a few pet-phrases/words that I’ve picked up in any given project, too, so I have to have a BOLO out on those. ;)


    1. Wise, Ink. December 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Reply

      I (Dara) have the exact same problem Liberty. I’m also bad with using “very.”


  • Stephen Shirres December 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Reply

    A good list but I’d like some clarification on number 6. I often use seem when trying to describe another characters’ internal actions. For example “she seemed happy by the response.”

    The POV character won’t know whether that character is truly happy or not so how do people suggest I do this without using the word seem.

    This is a genuine question by the way. It would really help my writing.


    1. Naomi Krueger December 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm | Reply

      Stephen,

      Eliminating the overuse of “seem” in your writing could open an opportunity to show instead of tell. Might there be another way to convey the assumption of the character’s happiness through her mannerisms, actions, etc.? You can convey the POV character’s hesitation in the assumption without saying it outright, too. It’s okay to use “seem” once in a while, but when overused it can be distracting and clunky.


  • Lynette Benton December 13, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Reply

    All of the above, and “many.” “Numerous” works just as well and is a welcome change.

    “Nice,” and one *I* overuse: “Wonderful.”

    So, I won’t say this is a wonderful post, although it is . . .


    1. Wise, Ink. December 17, 2013 at 10:28 am | Reply

      Thanks Lynette! We appreciate the “wonderful” comment :)


  • Lissa Johnston December 17, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply

    ‘a bit’ is on my hit list recently. I have yet to find an example where leaving it out is a negative.


    1. Wise, Ink. December 17, 2013 at 10:27 am | Reply

      Agreed Lissa! Another of the ones I (Dara) need to work on!


  • Steve Bishop December 17, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Reply

    continue ON, revert BACK, comprising OF – the list of needless add-ons is a trend. Then there’s my favourite teethgrinder – centred AROUND!


  • Guess whose back | Love. Bake. Live. December 29, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Reply

    […] http://www.wiseinkblog.com/writing-2/9-words-and-phrases-to-delete-from-your-writing/ […]


  • John Holt January 2, 2014 at 6:44 am | Reply

    Spare me from rules and regulations. People use these phrases in reality, I will therefore continue to use them (where appropriate) in my novels. Usually my book have a word count of about 100000. If someone dislikes my novel because of a half a dozen words then I feel sorry for them. In conclusion I write to please me. If I like it that’s fine. If others like it that’s a bonus


    1. Wise, Ink. January 2, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Reply

      Hi John! We appreciate your perspective. Thanks for the comment.


  • Reader January 5, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Reply

    I cringe whenever I see the phrase, “… will have some explaining to do.” Maybe this is not always a case of the phrase from “I Love Lucy” being stuck into a novel as a little side joke from the author (for example in a historical romance) but I always assume it is. And for me it wrecks any suspension of disbelief.


    1. Wise, Ink. January 5, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Reply

      Totally forgot that phrase originated (or was made popular) from “I Love Lucy” :) Thanks for the comment!


  • Mike Branch January 9, 2014 at 10:14 am | Reply

    Too much emphasis is placed on “writing like you talk”. I disagree. For example, I like to swear a lot. Should I include that … in my writing. Heck, no.


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