Do you want to improve your fiction or creative nonfiction writing? Eliminate these over-used adverbs, adjectives, and nouns! Instead of using clichés and overdone descriptors, find fresh images that will bring your characters and setting to life.
If you’re serious about learning the mechanics of writing, check out Mignon Fogarty’s The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl — you’ll learn a new tip for great writing every day. This isn’t just the best way to learn how to write better, it’ll will help you spot and avoid over-used words in your writing.
I promised a reader in the comments section of 5 Over-Used Words and Phrases for Writers to Avoid that I’d write this post…and here it is, finally. What’s that you say? The cliché “better late than never” is over-used and boring? It belongs on my “over-used words and phrases in writing” list? If you caught that, you get a gold star! (another tired old clichés. Which, by the way, are three repetitive words).
Ditch these boring words and phrases! Stop using amorphous adverbs and namby-pamby nouns! Delete crummy clichés!
And, here are 51 over-used words and phrases in writing – which I hope helps you become a more successful, confident writer. Compiling this list has certainly opened my eyes to my own weak writing habits.
The following “over-used words in writing” aren’t necessarily on the no-fly list – in fact, writers can use them and get delicious results in many circumstances! These adjectives just need to be used creatively and carefully.
A noun is a person, place, or thing – and an adjective should describe the noun in more detail (eg, “successful writers”). Some writing teachers say that adjectives are wholly unnecessary, while others advise writers to use sparingly. It’s up to you, fellow scribes…
- Same exact
- Truly unique
- A lot
“As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.” ~ Mark Twain.
Writing tip: Replace your boring over-used tired limp adjectives with strong nouns (eg, instead of “successfully obtains”, use “wins”). Using too many adjectives is a common writing mistake for all writers – not just newbies.
Over-used Adverbs in Writing
A verb contains all the action: writing, editing, getting published, signing copies of your book for fans. An adverb helps describe the action, and can often be unnecessary (see? I used “often be”, which is totally unnecessary. So is “totally”! You see how difficult good writing is?!?!).
- Kind of
- Could have
Fellow scribes, remember that an over-used adverb can be delicious and even juicy when it’s used in a surprising way.
If you’re one of those writers who has a hard time spotting their own over-used words, read 5 Editing Tips That Will Elevate Your Writing.
Over-Used Clichés in Writing
“Any great truth can – and eventually will – be expressed as a cliché…and a cliché is a sure and certain way to dilute an idea.” ~ Solomon Short.
- Writing on the wall
- Cry over spilled milk
- Better late than never
- Think outside the box
- At the end of the day
- The bottom line
- It’s not rocket science
- Easy as pie
- Smart as a whip
- Taking candy from a baby
- Love makes the world go ‘round
- Selling like hotcakes
- In the nick of time
- Go get ‘em, tiger!
- When life gives you lemons…
Thank you, AussieExpat (one of my readers), for “keeping it real” and not letting me forget my promise to compile this list of over-used words and phrases in writing! I appreciate you.
For more ways to avoid over-used words, read How to Write Good Sentences – 5 Tips for Making Your Words Flow.
“Play around. Dive into absurdity and write. Take chances. You will succeed if you are fearless of failure.” – Natalie Goldberg.
Fellow scribes, if you have any over-used words in writing, adverbs, adjectives, clichés, or weak phrases to throw into the ring (excuse the cliché), I welcome you with open arms (excuse the cliché).