Master list of words / phrases to avoid #amwriting #amediting

Here is my list of words to avoid when writing with an explanation for each about alternatives and / or why. I don’t want to turn this into a thesaurus, we have a bounty of applications that can do a much better job, but I have popped some alternatives in where it helps to explain the point.

I make a pass through my manuscript for each of these words / phrases, and explore each one. There are generally 4 options:

  • Leave it
  • Remove it
  • Replace it with a more specific word
  • Rework the sentence

Master list of words / phrases to avoid

  1. A lot of – Alt. Many.
  2. Across – Overused word. If it is movement, consider how to better show movement.
  3. All – Overused word. Alt. Each, copious.
  4. Almost, always, already, anymore – Check each one, they are often redundant and can be removed.
  5. Came, came to – Alt. Arrived.
  6. Carried on – Alt. Reached.
  7. Different – Overused word / Ambiguous word. Ask how / why the thing is different. It may give you hints.
  8. Feel, feeling, felt – Telling word. All kind of alternative here For example, Feel sorry for = pity. Feel better = comfort.
  9. Good – Overused word / Ambiguous word. Ask how / why the thing is good. It may give you hints.
  10. Large, Big – Overused word. Alt. Huge, massive, vast, high, tall etc.
  11. Looked like – Alt. Appeared, resembled etc.
  12. Look / look at –  Overused word. Alt. Regard, watch, study, inspect etc
  13. ly – Main adverbs. Check for better verbs.
  14. New – Overused word. Alt. Latest, recent.
  15. Next to – Alt. Beside, against.
  16. Old – Overused word. Alt. Ancient, decrepit, decaying, elderly etc.
  17. Right – Overused word / Ambiguous word. Consider how / why the thing is right Alt. Exact, precise
  18. Small – Overused word. Alt. Tiny, microscopic, minute, cramped, compact etc
  19. Some – Overused word. Consider removing or being precise For example. Some eggs = A dozen eggs or Alt. Few, occasionally etc.
  20. Somewhere, Sometime – Ambiguous / Overused words. Can often be removed or replaced with actual description. For example, He left sometime ago = He left at 2pm/ this morning/ last week.
  21. Thing, something, everything – Overused word. Can often be removed or replaced with an actual description of the thing in question. For example, Her things had arrived = Her books had arrived.
  22. Thoughts – Overused word. What sort of thoughts?
  23. Think about – Alt. Consider, remember, recall etc.
  24. Very – Overused word / Ambiguous word. Consider alternative For example, Very big = Huge.
  25. Went – Overused word / Ambiguous word. For example, Went up = Climbed.

If anyone has more suggestions, or alternatives, please let me know and I will add them to the post. Happy editing everyone πŸ™‚

39 thoughts on “Master list of words / phrases to avoid #amwriting #amediting

  1. After I wrote the first draft of my first novel, I used the find-replace function to search for ‘ly’ … I was looking for adverbs because I knew that every adverb indicated that I needed to find a stronger verb. The longer I write, the easier it gets to think of the correct verb during the initial creative phase. That said, every time I realize I’ve used an adverb, my chain of though comes to a screeching halt while I think of a better action word.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a useful list and I agree with much of it, but when I come across words like ‘massive’ in a book, I ask why the writer didn’t just use ‘big’. It might be overused, but it’s not so overused that I’d want someone to use ‘massive’ instead. They’re not synonyms.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with most of this. Eliminate prepositions added to verbs. e.g. sit down. A human might tell a dog to sit, the best way. Sit down suggests the human being likes to hear himself speak. Get up in place of rise or stand is wrong. The motion is already in the verb.
    Some suggestions must be ignored. It is best to use the Germanic part of English, rather than Latin/Greek. I paraphrase Mark Twain, I never use metropolis at a dime a word when I can use city. [I haven’t looked but I fear city comes from French/Latin, rather than a Germanic origin.]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As is if I didn’t know … I have problems … but then again … all words are conditional … and my condition is I mainly write dialogue and my characters relatively normal … so some alternative words simply wouldn’t work … but then again you have got me thinking … maybe … and that is no bad thing … thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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