February 22, 2005
Words I'm trying to avoid using

In an effort to improve the clarity of my written and spoken communication, I'm noting words that I use too much. A partial list:

  • Basically: empty word I use way too often, especially when defining or explaining something. E.g.: "This extension basically makes it easier to extend mozilla." Basically adds nothing to this sentence except 9 letters.
  • Interesting: my go to word for expressing enthusiasm about something. I think it's lazy, as I rarely explain what I find interesting. Getting at the reason for my interest would be way more, well, interesting than just a statement. (Also file this under: criticial thinking skills, need for improvement of.)
  • Kind of, probably, likely, mostly, sort of: Weasel qualifiers used so I can avoid definitive statements. I do this a lot and I've decided that pre-couching statements with plausible deniability is getting in the way of communicating clearly.
  • Very, really: reverse of previous point. Started noticing the use of these after reading Mark Twain quote: "Substitute 'damn' every time youčre inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."
  • Dude: (spoken communication only). Typically employed in a jokey, ironic fashion but it's become a crutch, and I'm sure it makes me look like a doofus at times.

It's hard to act as editor as I'm writing but it'll be worth it if I can internalize good habits. (I had to remove kind of from the previous sentence.)

Posted by Bill Stilwell at February 22, 2005 10:19 AM


I get annoyed when people use "indeed" a lot in their writing. Now there's a word that's better off in the bin.

I read over my blog entries before I submit them, but I must admit I do add useless words in an attempt to make my sentences "flow". It's a habit I got from my arts classes.

The best thing to do (if you can) is to get someone else to read your writing and have them tell you if you're over-using some words or have some bad writing habits. Maybe I should do that...

Posted by: gillian on February 22, 2005 2:02 PM

Dude: www.ratemywritingsample.com. It'll make millions!

Posted by: Bill Stilwell on February 22, 2005 2:18 PM

How damn self-aware of you :)

One word that gets me going is 'utilize'. In a 'writing for the web' class my teacher said it's just a longer way to say 'use'...

Posted by: Tzaddi on February 22, 2005 10:52 PM

It would be kind of cool to see someone write a plugin to flag the the words one is trying to avoid. Basically, just a regex, but I think it could really interesting. Probably more difficult to do for spoken word.

Posted by: kellan on February 23, 2005 8:00 AM

Hmm, someone did it for passive verbs and adverbs, so it couldn't be too difficult. Something to look into.

Posted by: Bill Stilwell on February 23, 2005 8:07 AM
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