As Mark Twain famously wrote, "I didn't have time to write a short
letter, so I wrote a long one instead." His point? Strong writing is
When you want to make your writing more powerful, cut out words you don't need—such as the 10 included in this post:
1. Just: The word "just" is a filler word that weakens
your writing. Removing it rarely affects meaning, but rather, the
deletion tightens a sentence.
2. Really: Using the word "really" is an example of
writing the way you talk. It's a verbal emphasis that doesn't translate
perfectly into text. In conversation,
people use the word frequently, but in written content it's unnecessary.
Think about the difference between saying a rock is "hard" and "really
example. What does the word add? Better to cut it out to make your
3. Very: Everything that applies to "really" applies to "very." It's a weak word. Cut it.
4. Perhaps/maybe: Do you want your audience to think
you're uncertain about what you're saying? When you use words like
"maybe" and "perhaps," uncertainty is exactly what
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5. Quite: When someone uses "quite," he or she either
means "a bit" or "completely" or "almost." Sometimes the word adds
meaning; sometimes it's fluff. Learn to
tell the difference—but, when in doubt, cut it out.
6. Amazing: The meaning of "amazing" is causing great wonder or surprise—but some writers use the word so often that the meaning gets lost. How can
something be amazing if everything is? Ditch this diluted word.
7. Literally: When something is true in a literal
sense, you don't have to add the word "literally." The only reason it
makes sense to use the word is when it
clarifies meaning (i.e., to explain you aren't joking when it seems you
8. Stuff: Unless you are aiming at informality, don't
use the word "stuff." It's casual, it's generic, and it usually stands
in for something better.
9. Things: Writers use the word "things" to avoid using
a clearer, more specific word that would communicate more meaning. Be
specific. Don't tell us about the "10
things," tell us about the "10 books" or "10 strategies." Specificity
makes for better writing.
10. Got: Think of all the ways we use the vague word
"got" in conversation: "I've got to go," "I got a ball," or "I got up
this morning." Though it's fine for
conversation, in writing, "got" misses valuable opportunities. Rather
than writing a lazy word, look for clearer, more descriptive language:
I'd leave by 9," "I picked up a ball," or "I woke up today," for
Whether you've been writing for a few days or for many years, you'll benefit from
evaluating the words you use. Cut the filler to make your writing stronger.
is a writer for
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