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Words to avoid

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

Words to avoid in your writing, cutting them will invariably improve your writing.

  • Very

  • Rather

  • Really

  • Quite

  • In fact

  • Just

  • Of course

  • Surely

  • Actually

  • So

'ly' endings

Reconsider any words ending in 'ly' they're often not needed. From the examples above Really, Surely, Actually but many other, positively, totally, realistically etc

Overused adverbs can be a sign of slovenly, cluttered writing (I'm guilty). Naturally written dialogue often uses strong verbs rather than 'ly' adverbs.

You may find the adverb will mean the same as the verb and so becomes redundant.

This is a passage from my story Mr Big:-

'Bank's been robbed. Apparently, they came in over the weekend and drilled through into the vault from the travel agents.'

Would this read better as:-

'Bank's been robbed. They came in over the weekend and drilled through into the vault from the travel agents.'

Do we need 'apparently'? What does it add? Is it cleaner and punchier without it?

Adverbs modify the verb.

Frequently overused adverbs modify the verb 'said'. (But you'll also find with many others like walked, shouted, etc). Here's an example:-

'I love you.' said Simon affectionately.

By removing the adverb 'affectionately' and rephrasing the author allows the reader to better experience the emotion of the dialogue. For example:-

Simon rested his hand gently on her shoulder and whispered, 'I love you.'

Writing Tip

Search your work for the words listed above and words ending in 'ly' and ask yourself if you need them, what do they add? Try to keep adverbs down to one per few hundred words. You will often find that the adverb is not needed and the writing is tighter and punchier without them.

This is also useful if you need to reduce word count for a competition or assignment piece, you can often cut adverbs without losing anything of the meaning and indeed adding considerable clarity.

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