A few months ago I was asked to weigh in on a debate sparked by an agency’s vain search for a copywriter who could deliver what a copywriter is supposed to be able to deliver with aplomb. This proved to be more difficult than they anticipated.
7 words you shouldnt be using in your writing
You know what you planned to write about. You set out with great intentions to write a beautiful piece. But then you became lost in a sea of words and descriptions, defining and explaining. There are just too many options, after all (there are 171 476 words in the English language!). Soon your writing doesnt match the picture you had in your head of the piece you set out to write. And thats because of the words you used which shouldnt have been there.
The key to good writing, said Pulitzer Prize-winning author Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr Seuss, is "meticulosity". So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.
With that wise saying, Michelle Jones from digital marketing agency, Rogerwilco, shares her thoughts on words that should be avoided.
This is a word which does nothing to the word its referring to. Why say youre very scared when you could say youre petrified. Dont say youre very busy when you could describe yourself as frantic. Use words which are descriptive, without being too flowery, and your writing will be evocative with meaning.
Similar to very, being really bad at spelling is exactly the same as being bad at spelling. Theres no reason to use this word for additional emphasis. If you do need to emphasise something, use a single word which fully describes what youre trying to say.
If a sentence makes sense after removing that, delete it. Go through your writing and see how many times you've used that. Id hedge a bet 9 out of 10 times were completely unnecessary.
Stuff is one of the ultimate lazy words. It should only be used sparingly when youre trying to be intentionally informal. Otherwise, it just fails to properly describe what it seeks to refer to.
Just like stuff, this is used far too often. Things doesnt describe properly what its referring to. It should instead be replaced with a more descriptive word.
How much is a lot? It could mean anything from 10 to 10 000. It isnt saying anything and is subjective. Rather be specific. And the ultimate offence of this word? Its common misspelling as alot. Shudder.
And its annoying friend gotten. These are not words you should ever use. They are lazy. They're the words writers use when they cant be bothered to think of a better one. One of the worst features of these words is their vagueness. It says absolutely nothing while wasting your readers precious time. Why would you want to do that to them?
Noticed a theme yet? The words you should seek to cut from your writing are lazy and dont effectively describe what theyre referring to. There are many more words than those on this list which have lost their meaning thanks to overuse. When in doubt, rather replace one of these with a more descriptive word which the reader will find helpful as they imagine the scene.
Because that's what were doing, using carefully chosen words to show rather than tell. Stop using these superfluous words in your writing. Or at the very least, think twice before using them. You have just a few seconds to capture the attention of your reader. Dont miss this opportunity with sloppy, poorly-crafted copy.
Rogerwilco is an independent, award-winning digital marketing agency based in Cape Town, South Africa. Specialists in organic SEO, B2B marketing and Drupal web development, its portfolio includes the UN, World Economic Forum and Walt Disney as well as local blue-chips Sanlam, Tiger Brands and Wesbank. Its user-first approach boosts engagement between clients and their customers, delivering a meaningful return on investment by driving sales, applications or conversions. A member of the IAB and The Drupal Association of South Africa, Rogerwilco is committed to developing local Drupal talent and promoting it to US and European brands looking to outsource internationally. Founded by CEO Charlie Stewart and MD Jakes Redelinghuys in 2008, today its Cape Town team consists of 35 strategists, search analysts, content producers and outreach consultants. It also recently opened its Johannesburg office. Visit www.rogerwilco.co.za or follow @rogerwilco_sa.
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