Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 30, 2016

Overused Words

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here, with…

My Personally Overused Words

There are plenty of online lists about the most common overused words for writers. And those lists may have some great ones for me to keep in mind.  But an even more powerful tool is a list of words that you… personally… overuse.

Some of you may remember a few of my posts that mention my dad. An English major.  A grammar hound.  A lover of the red pen.

Hours of my childhood were spent with his soft but consistent voice (and my frustrated tears) as he analyzed my work. I would fight back with comments like, “Okay, I see your point.  But it’s my paper and I don’t wanna do that.”  Or the famous “But that’s my favorite line!!”

Honestly, I don’t remember who won more often than not. But I do remember a lot of the lessons he wanted me to learn.

In my writing today, I find that some of the habits I had even in third or fourth grade are still found in my creative writing and even some of my freelance or educational writing.

As a “conversationalist” writer by nature, I tend to overuse words like “so”, “same exact” “absolutely” “sort of” and “truly”. Most of the time, they’re not only unnecessary themselves, but are a trigger, leading into an entire line that could lift right out.

“On the other hand” is one I find myself writing in first drafts. My brain works by poking at all sides of a topic, analyzing it and providing counter arguments to everything.  But that doesn’t mean it all needs to be written out!  More often than not, what was actually ON the other hand, turns out to be completely irrelevant.

“I think” or “in my opinion” is one I find myself using when writing posts. I did the same thing in papers in middle school.  Here’s how that (very frequent) conversation would go:

DAD: You don’t need this.

ME: Well, someone else may disagree.

DAD: It’s YOUR paper.  The teacher knows that it’s what YOU think.

ME: But it’s not a fact.  Other things are fact.  This is an opinion.

DAD: The entire paper is about what you THINK.  You could put this before every line.

ME: (mumbling) But I didn’t. (definitely imagine that with a lot of hurt, snide attitude, hehe) 

Today, it’s a line I actually look for, knowing that more often than not, it only detracts from my message or bogs down the flow of the words themselves.

I’m glad that I know these things about myself, about my writing. I go back and LOOK for the words I know I overuse.  I keep an ever-growing list in a notebook and I’ll use the “find” feature in Word to hunt them down.

I think it’s a great idea. ß hehe

What words do you tend to overuse? I encourage any writer to go through their critiques, their red-penned drafts, or even just eyeball their own work, and hunt down words that appear too frequently, those that have no meaning, or those that tend to lead you down an unnecessary pathway.  Keep a list of them and you can turn a weakness, into a strength.

Our manuscripts have a lot to say! We don’t need the extra clutter getting in the way.  Because there’s no doubt…

… our manuscripts are worth it!


  1. Erika, I always enjoy your posts so much. I’m starting my list today!


  2. Another good one, Erika. I found one of mine: “She was wearing a straw hat on her head.” (As in, where else would she wear it? I deleted the last three words.)


  3. I am always using the ‘find’ button in word searching for my overused words. One of the words I like to use a lot is ‘old.’ I also look for words such as felt, saw, knew, thought, wondered, decided, realized, heard, seemed, thing, it, people, that, etc. etc. I could go on and on.


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