30 Overused Words and Their Alternatives

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Words lose their meaning over time, and more often than not end up meaning something different from what they originally meant. All in all, there are many ways to reinforce your writing. You can pick one or all of these techniques to use if you are in need of re-enforcement in your own writing. The key is to remember to use these techniques in moderation, otherwise, your writing will start to sound repetitive.

Avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.

Professor Keating, Dead Poets Society

This list will help you think about how to liven up your manuscript by replacing filler-type words with others that could pack a punch.

A lot: copious, countless, myriad, numerous, plentiful, several

Amazing/awesome: astonishing, fascinating, incredible, marvelous, stunning, wonderful

Also: additionally, besides, furthermore, in addition to, moreover, to boot

Bad: deficient, inferior, dreadful, atrocious, unacceptable, dissatisfactory, erroneous

Big: considerable, vast, colossal, extensive, substantial, immense, ample, copious

Change: transform, modify, revise, switch, transition, adjust, alter, rework

Definitely: absolutely, undeniably, positively, doubtless, plainly, surely, specifically

Easy: uncomplicated, effortless, straightforward, adept, amiable, responsive

Fine: outstanding, exceptional, magnificent, well-made, admirable, first-rate

Get: acquire, obtain, accomplish, attain, extort, extract, glean, secure, procure

Give: bestow, relinquish, permit, award, bequeath, dispense, administer, contribute

Good: satisfying, stupendous, proficient, valuable, acceptable, worthy, congenial

Great: excellent, exceptional, unmitigated, proficient, marvelous, expert

Happy: contented, jubilant, ecstatic, elated, overjoyed, captivated, upbeat, gratified

Hard: arduous, troublesome, demanding, strenuous, onerous, exacting, complicated

Help: advice, guidance, remedy, corrective, assist, service, cooperation, comfort

Important: crucial, significant, essential, critical, meaningful, vital, far-reaching, imperative

Interesting: engaging, stimulating, captivating, compelling, absorbing, meaningful, notable

Keep: retain, preserve, possess, manage, amass, conserve, detain, garner, control

Know: experience, comprehend, acquainted, distinguish, differentiate, realize, discern

Like: similar, comparable, related, corresponding, equivalent, resembling, equal

Like: enjoy, relish, admire, cherish, regard, extol, appreciate, commend, respect

Look: glimpse, contemplate, survey, inspection, glance, attention, review

Nice: gracious, pleasurable, charming, amiable, well-mannered, genial, pleasing, seemly

Quite: considerably, absolutely, thoroughly, in all respects, utterly, all-in-all, purely

Really: literally, genuinely, categorically, in effect, unquestionably, undoubtedly, honestly

Said: announced, expressed, uttered, revealed, described, disclosed, divulged, intimated

So: apparently, accordingly, likewise, similarly, consequently, hence, provided that

Then: suddenly, formerly, in that event, subsequently, appropriately, as a consequence

Very: profoundly, extremely, truly, greatly, notably, prominently, suitably, immensely, vitally

Most writers use words that are overused in communication to convey meaning, meaning which is superfluous. We are all guilty of this to some extent, but it is worth being aware of. Think about it: how many times have you heard the phrase “until,” “however,” “although,” “obviously,” or “in all fairness”? How many times have you heard the phrase “I’m sorry”? Did you ever stop to think it’s not necessary?

I’ve shared my tips for how to avoid overused words and phrases. If you use them, make sure they are very deliberate. And don’t hesitate to use any of the alternatives I’ve provided. Since they are uncommon, they will make your writing more interesting.

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Guilliean Pacheco (she/her) is a writer and editor of color, but you may also know her as the host of the Raconteuse Radio podcast. Her work has appeared in Nevada Humanities and Helen. She has an M.F.A. in Writing from the University of San Francisco. She’s a misplaced California girl who lives in Las Vegas normally if one could call living there normal. Follow her on Twitter.

Use Your Words