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Writing Tips > 51 Commonly Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Clichés in Writing

51 Commonly 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! Eliminating these clichés and over-used descriptors (adverbs, adjectives, nouns, etc) will improve your writing quickly and easily.

Before you scroll down, do you see the over-used, redundant phrase in the sentence above? You get an A if you recognized that “quickly and easily” is an all-too-common descriptor! And an A+ if you recognized the over-used adjective in the last sentence 🙂

A reader asked for more specific tips on how to write better after he read 5 Over-Used Words and Phrases for Writers to Avoid. It took me awhile to write this post, but better late than never.



What’s that you say? The phrase “better late than never” is a cliché? It belongs on my “over-used words and phrases in writing” list? If you caught that, you get a gold star. If you noticed two redundant words in the title of this article, you get TWO gold stars. At the end I’ll tell you what I think they are. Let me know if you agree.

Getting rid of bloated writing is easy if you are familiar with these 51 most commonly over-used words and phrases in writing. Even just recognizing them in other people’s writing will help 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.

Over-Used Adjectives

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 be delicious and even juicy when it’s used in a surprising way.

Are you one of those writers who has a hard time spotting their own over-used words when writing love scenes for romance novels? Read Writing About Love: 20 Words for Writers on Valentine’s Day.



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

  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…

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.

For more ways to avoid over-used words, read How to Write Good Sentences – 5 Tips for Making Your Words Flow.

What are the two redundant words in the title of this article? In the fourth paragraph of this post I said you get TWO gold stars if you spot them. I think the words “commonly” and “in writing” (technically two words) are redundant. Instead of “51 Commonly Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Clichés in Writing”, a better title is simply “51 Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Clichés.”

And yes, the word “simply” in the last sentence is also redundant.

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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31 thoughts on “51 Commonly Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Clichés in Writing”

  1. Currently is currently used to much. Another example, “I am currently complaining” The present tense already implies “currently”

  2. you missed a HUGE one… Over-used adverb “literally” compliments of everyone under 40.

    I also have colleagues who use “simply” and “certainly” egregiously.

    1. My favorite misuse of literally, from a co-worker who stated, “I literally jumped out of my skin!”

      “Literally, I do not think that word means what you think it means”

  3. I would add “massive” and “awesome” to the list of overused and abused adjectives.

    Also, there is widespread abuse of reflexive pronouns, such as “himself”, “itself” and “herself”. Reflexive pronouns can usually be cut from a sentence without reducing meaning, e.g., instead of “he himself did it”, say “he did it”. I find it appalling that such syntax errors appear even in ancient writings such as English translations of the Holy Bible.

  4. Given the subject matter, perhaps you or another of your readers might offer up a suggestion?

    For the last couple of years I’ve used ProWritingAid to help me edit and revise a book I’ve been working on, and until recently it worked fine other than the odd disappearance from Word, which required reloading the program. Recently though it has become completely useless to work with, and the technical backup from the company is non-existent – all that’s been suggested is that I should delete the program and reinstall, a measure I tried before I even contacted them.

    I essentially used the program for a number of the points you described – detecting overuse of adverbs, cliches, repetition of words and phrases, etc, as well as a few other reports, such as echoes (words that repeat too closely to each other) that I also find invaluable.

    Now I need a replacement and can’t seem to find anything that fits the bill, especially one that actually highlights the problem areas in the text so I can find and correct them quickly. I thought Grammarly might be the answer but unless I’m mistaken it doesn’t really cover most of the areas I mentioned.

    Could you – or someone else reading my post – offer up any alternatives? It would certainly be appreciated.

    Thanks

  5. Loved this!! I adapted the information (list) for use in my tutoring class (your full credits given). How intriguing that you live in a treehouse!! My dh’s and my dream living! I will enjoy perusing your site more and to read your articles! So glad I found you today!

    1. Great, Tamara, I’m glad this list was helpful. Tutoring is one of the best ways to learn how to write better. In fact, I recently heard a professional travel writer say he keeps his writing skills polished by teaching at writer’s conferences. The more you teach, the more you learn!

  6. Here’s a good test for whether or not an adverb, adjective or noun is over-used: did it immediately spring into your mind? If it did, it’s a cliche. If you have to search for it — or, even better, take time compare it to something that is similar yet different — then it’s a more interesting choice.

    Note the redundancy in my title: “51 Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Clichés in Your Writing.” Over-Used and Cliché are repetitive and unnecessary. 🙂