Replace Overused Words in Your Novel


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

Adverbs can often be substituted with more accurate verbs.

 Awfully

Really

Very

Almost any word that ends in “ly”

Adjectives

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.

amazing

awesome

bad

beautiful

big

fine

good

great

happy

interesting

look

nice

quite

said

so

well

Other- This word appeared over five million times in a day across Grammarly.

Try these alternatives: alternative times, further suggestions, different opinions.

More

New

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.

Able

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)

for example

suddenly

hopefully

already

just

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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3 comments
  1. 1authorcygnetbrown said:

    Thanks!

  2. Great list. I’ll add these to what I already search for.

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