One small word; one large demon-spawn of heck for author-kind

over used words - scrn prntWhee!!! I am merrily spinning through my mental universe, spewing my thoughts onto the keyboard when suddenly I am brought up short by none other than the dreaded Over Used Word.

Somebody shoot me now!  But at least I have that magic tool “Control-F’ to help me search for words that seem to come up too frequently. By clicking the down arrow on the menu on the left, I can navigate easily to each instance of the word and decide whether to keep it or remove it.  Many times, removing it is the solution, and often you don’t have to replace it with anything at all.  The sentence can be stronger for not having the word at all.

When I look back on my work I can see where my mind seemed to run out of options and I developed a ‘fall-back’ habit, which in turn, leads to a stale narrative.  Some of my favorite fall-back words?

Scrnprnt over used words part 2As. This word can be useful, but insidious. Like bamboo in an unwary gardener’s first garden, ‘As’ creeps into every paragraph if not kept in containers. To search for it, hit control-F. When the navigation box pops up on the left, key a space before and a space after to isolate only the two-letter word as, or every instance of any word containing those letters together will pop up. ( as )

prnt scn 3 over used wordsThat. Many times, removing it is  ideal the solution, and often you don’t have to replace it with anything at all.  Once again, the sentence will be stronger for not having the word at all.

Searching for these words and others like them in our precious manuscript can seem to be a daunting task, but with this tool it is much less trouble to do than it seems like it will be at first. It must be done on a word by word basis, because Global changes can inadvertently  wreak unimaginable havoc with your manuscript! Think of how many words in the English language have the two letters ‘a’ and ‘s’ next to each other in them?  Was, Assign, Bass–you see the problem with global changes.  Never click ‘Replace All’!

For small words that are frequently found inside of larger words, use the ‘space word space’ trick and you will have much better results.

And now here is my list of handy-dandy overused and the alternatives that I fall back on:

Overused Words and some alternatives

about – approximately, nearly, almost, approaching, close to

absolutely – unconditionally, perfectly, completely, ideally, purely

activity – action, movement, operation, labor, exertion, enterprise, project, pursuit, endeavor, job, assignment, pastime, scheme, task

add – attach, affix, join, unite, append, increase, amplify

affect – adjust, influence, transform, moderate, incline, motivate, prompt

amazing – overwhelming, astonishing, startling, unexpected, stunning, dazzling, remarkable

awesome – impressive, stupendous, fabulous, astonishing, outstanding

bad – defective, inadequate, poor, unsatisfactory, disagreeable, offensive, repulsive, corrupt, wicked, naughty, harmful, injurious, unfavorable

basic – essential, necessary, indispensable, vital, fundamental, elementary

beautiful – attractive, appealing, alluring, exquisite, gorgeous, handsome, stunning

begin – commence, found, initiate, introduce, launch, originate

better – preferable, superior, worthier

big – enormous, extensive, huge, immense, massive

boring – commonplace, monotonous, tedious, tiresome

bring – accompany, cause, convey, create, conduct, deliver, produce

cause – origin, stimulus, inspiration, motive

certain –  sure, unquestionable, incontrovertible, unmistakable, indubitable, assured, confident

change – alter, transform, vary, replace, diversify

choose – select, elect, nominate, prefer, identify

decent – respectable, adequate, fair, suitable

definitely – unquestionably, clearly, precisely, positively, inescapably

easy – effortless, natural, comfortable, undemanding, pleasant, relaxed

effective – powerful, successful, efficient

emphasize – underscore, feature, accentuate

end – limit, boundary, finish, conclusion, finale, resolution

energy – vitality, vigor, force, dynamism

enjoy – savor, relish, revel, benefit

entire – complete, inclusive, unbroken, integral

excellent – superior, remarkable, splendid, unsurpassed, superb, magnificent

exciting – thrilling, stirring, rousing, dramatic

far – distant, remote

fast – swift, quick, fleet, hasty, instant, accelerated

fill – occupy, suffuse, pervade, saturate, inflate, stock

finish – complete, conclude, cease, achieve, exhaust, deplete, consume

funny – comical, ludicrous, amusing, droll, entertaining, bizarre, unusual, uncommon

get – obtain, receive, acquire, procure, achieve

give – bestow, donate, supply, deliver, distribute, impart

go – proceed, progress, advance, move

good – satisfactory, serviceable, functional, competent, virtuous, striking

great – tremendous, superior, remarkable, eminent, proficient, expert

happy – pleased, joyous, elated, jubilant, cheerful, delighted

hard – arduous, formidable, complex, complicated, rigorous, harsh

help – assist, aid, support, sustain, serve

hurt – injure, harm, damage, wound, impair

immense – huge, vast, enormous, massive, gigantic, mammoth, colossal

important – significant, substantial, weighty, meaningful, critical, vital, notable

interesting – absorbing, appealing, entertaining, fascinating, thought-provoking

job – task, work, business, undertaking, occupation, vocation, chore, duty, assignment

keep – retain, control, possess

kind – type, variety, sort, form

know – comprehend, understand, realize, perceive, discern

like – similar, equivalent, parallel

like– enjoy, relish, appreciate

main – primary, foremost, dominant

make – build, construct, produce, assemble, fashion, manufacture

mean – plan, intend, suggest, propose, indicate

mean – small, cheap, hurtful

more – supplementary, additional, replenishment

need – essential, necessity, want, require, requirement, prerequisite, basic, must, requisite

new– recent, modern, current, novel

next – subsequently, thereafter, successively

nice – pleasant, satisfying, gracious, charming

old – aged, mature, experienced, used, worn, former, previous

open – unobstructed, accessible

part – section, portion, segment, detail, element, component

perfect – flawless, faultless, ideal, consummate

plan – scheme, design, system, plot

pleasant – agreeable, gratifying, refreshing, welcome

prove – demonstrate, confirm, validate, verify, corroborate

quick – brisk, prompt, responsive, rapid, nimble, hasty

really – truly, genuinely, extremely, undeniably

regular – standard, routine, customary, habitual

see – regard, behold, witness, gaze, realize, notice

small – diminutive, miniature, minor, insignificant, slight, trivial, mean

sometimes – occasionally, intermittently, sporadically, periodically

take – grasp, capture, choose, select, tolerate, endure

terrific – extraordinary, magnificent, marvelous

think – conceive, imagine, ponder, reflect, contemplate

try – attempt, endeavor, venture, test

use – employ, operate, utilize

very – unusually, extremely, deeply, exceedingly, profoundly

want – desire, crave, yearn, long

It is strange how these words seem to crop up all the time in the rough draft of my work and I have to stay on top of them, using my wide vocabulary!  The point is, you must make a list of words YOU use too often, and find alternatives or eliminate them if they are not necessary.  Believe me, this list of words to watch for and solutions for expressing that thought without being repetitive grows and evolves all the time, just as my writing does.

Many of these first draft bloopers are descriptors -‘ly’ words.  Like salt and pepper, they are usually not required in too large of quantities so closely examine your ms to make sure it isn’t so thick with description your reader’s teeth hurt from the sweetness!

Happy writing, and may the over-used words of heck NOT bloop in your manuscript!



Filed under Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, writer, writing

8 responses to “One small word; one large demon-spawn of heck for author-kind

  1. sureasmel

    Another clever way to do this is use a site like Wordle to make a word cloud; it’ll eliminate common, necessary word (the, and, etc.) and show you which words you’re using a lot.


  2. And don’t forget my personal bugaboo:



  3. Fantastic list – thanks for this Connie 🙂


  4. David P. Cantrell

    I find searching for ly can be useful for eliminating unnecessary adverbs.
    Another great post.