51 Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Clichés in Writing

Do you want your writing to get noticed – in a good way? Ditch these over-used adverbs, nouns, and cliches when writing articles, stories, and books.

overused words in writingIf 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. And you’ll avoid those over-used words in 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 finally is….better late than never. What’s that you say? The cliché “better late than never” is over-used and boring, and belongs on my “over-used words and phrases in writing” list? If you caught that, you get a gold star! (jeez, there I go again with the tired clichés).

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…

51 Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Clichés in Writing

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, is all.

Over-Used Adjectives in Writing

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…

  1. Many
  2. Pretty
  3. Nice
  4. Kind
  5. Pleasant
  6. Tall/short/fat/skinny
  7. Big/little
  8. Shimmering
  9. Absolutely
  10. Same exact
  11. Truly unique
  12. Quite
  13. Funny
  14. Many
  15. Incredible
  16. A lot
  17. Bad/good
  18. Roaring
  19. Interesting
  20. Amazing
  21. Any

“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?!?!).

  1. Very
  2. So
  3. Kind of
  4. Really
  5. Totally
  6. Actually
  7. Seems
  8. Suddenly
  9. Probably
  10. Could have
  11. Hopefully
  12. Just
  13. Perfect
  14. Viciously
  15. Usually

Fellow scribes, remember that an over-used adverb can taste delicious when used in a surprising way.

If all these over-used words in writing are too much for you, read Writing Motivation for Struggling Writers.

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.

  1. Writing on the wall
  2. Cry over spilled milk
  3. Better late than never
  4. Think outside the box
  5. At the end of the day
  6. The bottom line
  7. It’s not rocket science
  8. Easy as pie
  9. Smart as a whip
  10. Taking candy from a baby
  11. Love makes the world go ‘round
  12. Selling like hotcakes
  13. In the nick of time
  14. Go get ‘em, tiger!
  15. When life gives you lemons…
Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Clichés in Writing
Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Clichés in Writing

Thank you, AussieExpat, for “keeping it real” and not letting me reneg on 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).



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