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

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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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24 thoughts on “51 Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Clichés in Writing

  • mo

    “SO” as an adverb is “so” overused as to invoke nausea. So, “so” used in “so sorry” , etc should be punishable by major fine and/or imprisonment. So, there!

  • Laurie Post author

    Thanks for pointing out my grammatical error, Caren! You’re right – that was an adverb, not an adjective. Well done!

  • Caren

    Replace your boring over-used tired limp adjectives with strong nouns (eg, instead of “successfully obtains”, use “wins”

    This example is not an adjective… it’s an adverb modifying a verb…

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Thanks, Shawn! Yes, I’d love to read how you used these overused adverbs, nouns, and cliches in writing…will check it out….

  • Shawn Mackey

    I really enjoyed your post. As an English teacher I am constantly trying to get my students to write at higher levels. I took your list of overused adjectives and wrote a little paragraph using the words. I posted it to my blog if you would like to read it.

  • WritergalinOhio

    Though I totally agree with the bulk of this list, “at the end of the day” (lol) it seems that every phrase we utter these days is quickly becoming obsolete…

    I agree with the other posters, it’s good to have these types of reminders in the back of our heads as we write – it forces more creativity.

    I am waiting on the day that Google becomes a cliche – lol…I guess I’ll probably be the only one waiting on that one, especially since they have taken over the world – lol. GOOGLE FOR PRESIDENT!

  • Desolie

    Great list. It’s a challenge to find new ways to convey your message, but it can be done.
    My pet hate (as an editor of business and technical writing) is the use of tautologies – free gift, added bonus, raise up, universally loved by all.

  • Trisha

    What about in dialogue? My characters “totally” say totally quite a lot, and other daggy things 😉 But that’s dialogue, so… I figure it’s “totally” okay. 😛

  • Robert Earle Howells — Surefire Writing


    Constructive criticism is always helpful. Getting careful editing is one of the overlooked benefits of writing for print. To put it gently, the Web allows a lot of autodidacts to run amok.

    .-= Robert Earle Howells — Surefire Writing´s last blog post ..Freelance Writers: A Caution About Content Farms =-.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    That’s clever, Manalto — “acutely aware” may be redundant!
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..Starting a Magazine Writing Career – How to Make Money as a Freelancer =-.

  • Michelle Salater

    While I’m acutely aware of many typical clichés and overused words, too often they still manage to slither their way into first drafts of my writing! Thank you for the reminder to keep our writing quality high!
    .-= Michelle Salater´s last blog post ..Is Your Advertising as Effective as It Should Be? =-.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments, all.

    No offense taken, Robert Earle Howells…you’re one of my favorite scribes (er, I mean wordsmiths), and I’m always happy to experience feedback from fellow writerly folk 🙂

    Do you ever feel that constructive or even negative feedback is more helpful than positive? I wish I had more constructive criticism of my writing — my Reader’s Digest editor was GREAT at that.

    Anyway, thanks for being here!

    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..Starting a Magazine Writing Career – How to Make Money as a Freelancer =-.

  • Robert Earle Howells — Surefire Writing

    Not bad…er, I mean, not despicable.

    I’d add “beautiful” to the adjectives and “experience” to the verbs, as used in so many travel-magazine headlines.

    And no offense, but I’d also banish the word “scribe” along with “wordsmith.”

  • Chris

    Great list! I try and make a point of not using these. The cliches are easy enough to avoid. It’s those adjective and adverbs that require more conscious writing. Thanks for posting!
    .-= Chris´s last blog post ..Review: Blackberry Curve 8530 =-.

  • George Angus

    For me, the disclaimer at the front of this list says it all. Use these sparingly/creatively and you’ll probably be okay. Some writing is rife with these and that makes for a difficult read.

    .-= George Angus´s last blog post ..How To Get Your Expectations Met When Outsourcing Work To A New Writer =-.