Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Strengthen Your Prose

I came across a great list of words to avoid while writing. These words "deserve to die" because they are overused or passive. All you do is take one word at a time from the list, put it into your word processing "find" function, find each word and eliminate or replace it with a better word that fits what you are saying.

For instance, we each use the word "just" hundreds of times in everyday language, so we naturally use it in our writing. "Just" has seven different meanings. Each of those seven meanings have several words to express that meaning.

Try it yourself. Put "just" in your word find, open your thesaurus and then replace "just" with the word you actually mean. Another word to eliminate is "got." I've got to see her tonight! should be, I have to see her tonight, or even stronger, I must see her tonight! In most cases, replacing these words strengthens your prose.

The list is overwhelming. I started with the words I abuse the most.

...and spent a day and a half on the word "was." Sheesh!

Here is the list. The Tameri website also give explanations.
  • any infinitive (to walk)
  • about
  • all
  • almost
  • always
  • anxiously
  • believe
  • eagerly
  • every
  • feel
  • finally
  • frequently
  • got
  • just
  • merely
  • nearly
  • need
  • never
  • not
  • often
  • only
  • so
  • that
  • “the public”
  • then
  • very

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  1. this is great Joan! Exactly what I need to tighten up my writing. Thanks! btw...my two youngest daughters and I are singing Be Strong for our New Beginnings program tomorrow night. Thanks for writing such a wonderful song. You make us sound pretty good!

  2. Very interesting and very helpful, Joan. Thanks for the info.
    barbara b

  3. I was wondereing if there was a list like that out there - thanks for posting it.

  4. I don't think any of these words need to die, but they do need to be used very sparingly. I agree with the search feature to see how much these are used, then try and either delete or substitute for another. But seriously,none of these words are evil.
    Moderation in all things...

  5. I agree they are not evil. Some or them have to say because no other word can say what you mean, but often another word fits better. "deserve to die" is a quote from the Tameri website. Thanks for your clarification, Donna!

  6. I agree with Donna and Joan - don't kill them, just make them too sick to show up often!