Now we are in the heart of proofreading. You’ve found missing words. You’ve found double words, now its time to improve your sentences by eliminating overused words.
You probably have a number of words that you personally overuse, so you should probably add this to your personal style guide. Until you develop your own list, here is a list of words to use cautiously.
List of Overused Words
While it would be awkward to avoid these words all the time, you should take care to substitute more interesting words whenever appropriate.
Adverbs can often be substituted with more accurate verbs.
Almost any word that ends in “ly”
Just as adverbs can be replaced by more appropriate verbs, boring adjectives can be replaced with adjectives that are more descriptive or you can describe your subject using better “show not tell” description. Here are a few adjectives to consider replacing.
Other- This word appeared over five million times in a day across Grammarly.
Try these alternatives: alternative times, further suggestions, different opinions.
Good- using good as an adjective is just good enough. Next time you qualify something as “good,” think about how good it is. You could be referring to something that’s slightly better than something else, something that’s suitable, or something that’s really good. Chances are, there’s a word to suit each situation.
Try these alternatives: excellent solution, decent option, worthy substitute.
Best- Similar to “good,” “best” isn’t the only way to provide a superlative.
Many-“Many” may seem like a go-to option when referring to an indeterminate group of things. However, if you have an idea of the volume, try to be as exact as possible. Try one of these alternatives to express a vague number: a multitude of ideas, a handful of times, numerous occasions, thousands of data points
Great-although “great” is a stronger word than “good,” it still doesn’t describe anything. Allow your characters to use grea but not by much. If you’re already expressing enthusiasm for something, set it apart.
Try these alternatives: awesome ideas, fantastic opportunity, wonderful work.
You may not think of “able” as an oft-used adjective, but this word appears whenever someone “is able” to complete a task. Next time you, use another phrase.
look, looked, looking (one of the most common verbs used for sight)
there (stood there, sat there)
over (walked over, ran over)
felt, heard, saw, watched, thought (you don’t always need to report that a character is doing these things)
Words/phrases that add nothing and might in fact dilute a scene.
at this time
at [in] this moment
in my opinion
any three-word phrase at the end of a sentence (search for prepositional phrases you use often)
try and [verb] (use try to rather than try and)
there is, there are, there were (especially to start sentences and open paragraphs)
oh, well, and oh well (especially in dialogue)
Substitute With Synonyms
Using the same word too many times can seem somewhat redundant to the reader. Here are synonyms for the 96 most commonly used words in English
Amazing — incredible, unbelievable, improbable, fabulous, wonderful, fantastic, astonishing, astounding, extraordinary
Anger — enrage, infuriate, arouse, nettle, exasperate, inflame, madden
Angry — mad, furious, enraged, excited, wrathful, indignant, exasperated, aroused, inflamed
Answer — reply, respond, retort, acknowledge
Ask– — question, inquire of, seek information from, put a question to, demand, request, expect, inquire, query, interrogate, examine, quiz
Awful — dreadful, terrible, abominable, bad, poor, unpleasant
Bad — evil, immoral, wicked, corrupt, sinful, depraved, rotten, contaminated, spoiled, tainted, harmful, injurious, unfavorable, defective, inferior, imperfect, substandard, faulty, improper, inappropriate, unsuitable, disagreeable, unpleasant, cross, nasty, unfriendly, irascible, horrible, atrocious, outrageous, scandalous, infamous, wrong, noxious, sinister, putrid, snide, deplorable, dismal, gross, heinous, nefarious, base, obnoxious, detestable, despicable, contemptible, foul, rank, ghastly, execrable
Beautiful — pretty, lovely, handsome, attractive, gorgeous, dazzling, splendid, magnificent, comely, fair, ravishing, graceful, elegant, fine, exquisite, aesthetic, pleasing, shapely, delicate, stunning, glorious, heavenly, resplendent, radiant, glowing, blooming, sparkling
Begin — start, open, launch, initiate, commence, inaugurate, originate
Big — enormous, huge, immense, gigantic, vast, colossal, gargantuan, large, sizable, grand, great, tall, substantial, mammoth, astronomical, ample, broad, expansive, spacious, stout, tremendous, titanic, mountainous
Brave — courageous, fearless, dauntless, intrepid, plucky, daring, heroic, valorous, audacious, bold, gallant, valiant, doughty, mettlesome
Break — fracture, rupture, shatter, smash, wreck, crash, demolish, atomize
Bright — shining, shiny, gleaming, brilliant, sparkling, shimmering, radiant, vivid, colorful, lustrous, luminous, incandescent, intelligent, knowing, quick-witted, smart, intellectual
Calm — quiet, peaceful, still, tranquil, mild, serene, smooth, composed, collected, unruffled, level-headed, unexcited, detached, aloof
Come — approach, advance, near, arrive, reach
Cool — chilly, cold, frosty, wintry, icy, frigid
Crooked — bent, twisted, curved, hooked, zigzag
Cry — shout, yell, yowl, scream, roar, bellow, weep, wail, sob, bawl
Cut — gash, slash, prick, nick, sever, slice, carve, cleave, slit, chop, crop, lop, reduce
Dangerous — perilous, hazardous, risky, uncertain, unsafe
Dark — shadowy, unlit, murky, gloomy, dim, dusky, shaded, sunless, black, dismal, sad
Decide — determine, settle, choose, resolve
Definite — certain, sure, positive, determined, clear, distinct, obvious
Delicious — savory, delectable, appetizing, luscious, scrumptious, palatable, delightful, enjoyable, toothsome, exquisite
Describe — portray, characterize, picture, narrate, relate, recount, represent, report, record
Destroy — ruin, demolish, raze, waste, kill, slay, end, extinguish
Difference — disagreement, inequity, contrast, dissimilarity, incompatibility
Do — execute, enact, carry out, finish, conclude, effect, accomplish, achieve, attain
Dull — boring, tiring„ tiresome, uninteresting, slow, dumb, stupid, unimaginative, lifeless, dead, insensible, tedious, wearisome, listless, expressionless, plain, monotonous, humdrum, dreary
Eager — keen, fervent, enthusiastic, involved, interested, alive to
End — stop, finish, terminate, conclude, close, halt, cessation, discontinuance
Enjoy — appreciate, delight in, be pleased, indulge in, luxuriate in, bask in, relish, devour, savor, like
Explain — elaborate, clarify, define, interpret, justify, account for
Fair — just, impartial, unbiased, objective, unprejudiced, honest
Fall — drop, descend, plunge, topple, tumble
False — fake, fraudulent, counterfeit, spurious, untrue, unfounded, erroneous, deceptive, groundless, fallacious
Famous — well-known, renowned, celebrated, famed, eminent, illustrious, distinguished, noted, notorious
Fast — quick, rapid, speedy, fleet, hasty, snappy, mercurial, swiftly, rapidly, quickly, snappily, speedily, lickety-split, posthaste, hastily, expeditiously, like a flash
Fat — stout, corpulent, fleshy, beefy, paunchy, plump, full, rotund, tubby, pudgy, chubby, chunky, burly, bulky, elephantine
Fear — fright, dread, terror, alarm, dismay, anxiety, scare, awe, horror, panic, apprehension
Fly — soar, hover, flit, wing, flee, waft, glide, coast, skim, sail, cruise
Funny — humorous, amusing, droll, comic, comical, laughable, silly
Get — acquire, obtain, secure, procure, gain, fetch, find, score, accumulate, win, earn, rep, catch, net, bag, derive, collect, gather, glean, pick up, accept, come by, regain, salvage
Go — recede, depart, fade, disappear, move, travel, proceed
Good — excellent, fine, superior, wonderful, marvelous, qualified, suited, suitable, apt, proper, capable, generous, kindly, friendly, gracious, obliging, pleasant, agreeable, pleasurable, satisfactory, well-behaved, obedient, honorable, reliable, trustworthy, safe, favorable, profitable, advantageous, righteous, expedient, helpful, valid, genuine, ample, salubrious, estimable, beneficial, splendid, great, noble, worthy, first-rate, top-notch, grand, sterling, superb, respectable, edifying
Great — noteworthy, worthy, distinguished, remarkable, grand, considerable, powerful, much, mighty
Gross — improper, rude, coarse, indecent, crude, vulgar, outrageous, extreme, grievous, shameful, uncouth, obscene, low
Happy — pleased, contented, satisfied, delighted, elated, joyful, cheerful, ecstatic, jubilant, gay, tickled, gratified, glad, blissful, overjoyed
Hate — despise, loathe, detest, abhor, disfavor, dislike, disapprove, abominate
Have — hold, possess, own, contain, acquire, gain, maintain, believe, bear, beget, occupy, absorb, fill, enjoy
Help — aid, assist, support, encourage, back, wait on, attend, serve, relieve, succor, benefit, befriend, abet
Hide — conceal, cover, mask, cloak, camouflage, screen, shroud, veil
Hurry — rush, run, speed, race, hasten, urge, accelerate, bustle
Hurt — damage, harm, injure, wound, distress, afflict, pain
Idea — thought, concept, conception, notion, understanding, opinion, plan, view, belief
Important — necessary, vital, critical, indispensable, valuable, essential, significant, primary, principal, considerable, famous, distinguished, notable, well-known
Interesting — fascinating, engaging, sharp, keen, bright, intelligent, animated, spirited, attractive, inviting, intriguing, provocative, though-provoking, challenging, inspiring, involving, moving, titillating, tantalizing, exciting, entertaining, piquant, lively, racy, spicy, engrossing, absorbing, consuming, gripping, arresting, enthralling, spellbinding, curious, captivating, enchanting, bewitching, appealing
Keep — hold, retain, withhold, preserve, maintain, sustain, support
Kill — slay, execute, assassinate, murder, destroy, cancel, abolish
Lazy — indolent, slothful, idle, inactive, sluggish
Little — tiny, small, diminutive, shrimp, runt, miniature, puny, exiguous, dinky, cramped, limited, itsy-bitsy, microscopic, slight, petite, minute
Look — gaze, see, glance, watch, survey, study, seek, search for, peek, peep, glimpse, stare, contemplate, examine, gape, ogle, scrutinize, inspect, leer, behold, observe, view, witness, perceive, spy, sight, discover, notice, recognize, peer, eye, gawk, peruse, explore
Love — like, admire, esteem, fancy, care for, cherish, adore, treasure, worship, appreciate, savor
Make — create, originate, invent, beget, form, construct, design, fabricate, manufacture, produce, build, develop, do, effect, execute, compose, perform, accomplish, earn, gain, obtain, acquire, get
Mark — label, tag, price, ticket, impress, effect, trace, imprint, stamp, brand, sign, note, heed, notice, designate
Mischievous — prankish, playful, naughty, roguish, waggish, impish, sportive
Move — plod, go, creep, crawl, inch, poke, drag, toddle, shuffle, trot, dawdle, walk, traipse, mosey, jog, plug, trudge, slump, lumber, trail, lag, run, sprint, trip, bound, hotfoot, high-tail, streak, stride, tear, breeze, whisk, rush, dash, dart, bolt, fling, scamper, scurry, skedaddle, scoot, scuttle, scramble, race, chase, hasten, hurry, hump, gallop, lope, accelerate, stir, budge, travel, wander, roam, journey, trek, ride, spin, slip, glide, slide, slither, coast, flow, sail, saunter, hobble, amble, stagger, paddle, slouch, prance, straggle, meander, perambulate, waddle, wobble, pace, swagger, promenade, lunge
Moody — temperamental, changeable, short-tempered, glum, morose, sullen, mopish, irritable, testy, peevish, fretful, spiteful, sulky, touchy
Neat — clean, orderly, tidy, trim, dapper, natty, smart, elegant, well-organized, super, desirable, spruce, shipshape, well-kept, shapely
New — fresh, unique, original, unusual, novel, modern, current, recent
Old — feeble, frail, ancient, weak, aged, used, worn, dilapidated, ragged, faded, broken-down, former, old-fashioned, outmoded, passe, veteran, mature, venerable, primitive, traditional, archaic, conventional, customary, stale, musty, obsolete, extinct
Part — portion, share, piece, allotment, section, fraction, fragment
Place — space, area, spot, plot, region, location, situation, position, residence, dwelling, set, site, station, status, state
Plan — plot, scheme, design, draw, map, diagram, procedure, arrangement, intention, device, contrivance, method, way, blueprint
Popular — well-liked, approved, accepted, favorite, celebrated, common, current
Predicament — quandary, dilemma, pickle, problem, plight, spot, scrape, jam
Put — place, set, attach, establish, assign, keep, save, set aside, effect, achieve, do, build
Quiet — silent, still, soundless, mute, tranquil, peaceful, calm, restful
Right — correct, accurate, factual, true, good, just, honest, upright, lawful, moral, proper, suitable, apt, legal, fair
Run — race, speed, hurry, hasten, sprint, dash, rush, escape, elope, flee
Say/Tell — inform, notify, advise, relate, recount, narrate, explain, reveal, disclose, divulge, declare, command, order, bid, enlighten, instruct, insist, teach, train, direct, issue, remark, converse, speak, affirm, suppose, utter, negate, express, verbalize, voice, articulate, pronounce, deliver, convey, impart, assert, state, allege, mutter, mumble, whisper, sigh, exclaim, yell, sing, yelp, snarl, hiss, grunt, snort, roar, bellow, thunder, boom, scream, shriek, screech, squawk, whine, philosophize, stammer, stutter, lisp, drawl, jabber, protest, announce, swear, vow, content, assure, deny, dispute
Scared — afraid, frightened, alarmed, terrified, panicked, fearful, unnerved, insecure, timid, shy, skittish, jumpy, disquieted, worried, vexed, troubled, disturbed, horrified, terrorized, shocked, petrified, haunted, timorous, shrinking, tremulous, stupefied, paralyzed, stunned, apprehensive
Show — display, exhibit, present, note, point to, indicate, explain, reveal, prove, demonstrate, expose
Slow — unhurried, gradual, leisurely, late, behind, tedious, slack
Stop — cease, halt, stay, pause, discontinue, conclude, end, finish, quit
Story — tale, myth, legend, fable, yarn, account, narrative, chronicle, epic, sage, anecdote, record, memoir
Strange — odd, peculiar, unusual, unfamiliar, uncommon, queer, weird, outlandish, curious, unique, exclusive, irregular
Take — hold, catch, seize, grasp, win, capture, acquire, pick, choose, select, prefer, remove, steal, lift, rob, engage, bewitch, purchase, buy, retract, recall, assume, occupy, consume
Tell — disclose, reveal, show, expose, uncover, relate, narrate, inform, advise, explain, divulge, declare, command, order, bid, recount, repeat
Think — judge, deem, assume, believe, consider, contemplate, reflect, mediate
Trouble — distress, anguish, anxiety, worry, wretchedness, pain, danger, peril, disaster, grief, misfortune, difficulty, concern, pains, inconvenience, exertion, effort
True — accurate, right, proper, precise, exact, valid, genuine, real, actual, trusty, steady, loyal, dependable, sincere, staunch
Ugly — hideous, frightful, frightening, shocking, horrible, unpleasant, monstrous, terrifying, gross, grisly, ghastly, horrid, unsightly, plain, homely, evil, repulsive, repugnant, gruesome
Unhappy — miserable, uncomfortable, wretched, heart-broken, unfortunate, poor, downhearted, sorrowful, depressed, dejected, melancholy, glum, gloomy, dismal, discouraged, sad
Use — employ, utilize, exhaust, spend, expend, consume, exercise
Wrong — incorrect, inaccurate, mistaken, erroneous, improper, unsuitable
Don’t Overdo the Synonyms
The objective for using synonyms is to keep your reader from thinking about how you’re writing rather than what you’re writing. Just as using the same word over and over again can seem like a redundancy, Using substituting synonyms can draw your reader to the fact that you as the author are using synonyms of the same word. There are cases when you will want to use synonyms, but not always. For instance, instead of using a synonym for the word “said”, a better technique than “substituting with a synonym? would be using Deep POV which we delve into in a previous blog post.
What other techniques can you identify that would help you with editing out overused words?
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