Grammar Guru: Words to Avoid

I have always heard that there are certain words that shouldn’t be used or avoided when possible in creative writing. But what exactly are those words? I knew a few of them such as “was” and ly words, but I knew there had to be more, so I did some research and this is what I came up with. Remember this is a guideline only and these words should be avoided most of the time, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use them at all.

The Weak Links
Avoid these words because there is usually another stronger word that can be used instead, so go for the bigger punch.
  • ly words… Check out my blog post The LY Rule to see more about this.
  • any words with these endings…Ize…tion…sion…ment…ance…
  • make
  • made
  • involve
  • involved
  • provide
  • provided
STOP! USE AT YOUR OWN RISK
These words should be avoided at all cost. They don’t do anything for your story but leave ambiguous holes.
  • instantly
  • suddenly
Passive Voice Anyone?
These words typically indicate a passive voice, but not always. Be mindful of these words and how they are being used. If you have one of these words in your sentence, check to see if the sentence is still active, however, passive voice can be a useful tool if used in the correct manner.
  • is
  • are
  • was
  • were
  • be
  • been
  • being
A Big Fat, Duh
This phrase is like shouting duh to your readers. Don’t use it unless you have a REALLY good reason to do so.
  • Of course
Space Holders
These words don’t do much but fill in space and take up word count, so if you want to get your word count down take an ax to these words.
  • that
  • just
  • really
  • very
  • quite
  • sort of
More Description Please
These words are used often, but don’t really say much. Is there another word that would work better and be more descriptive?
  • walk
  • look
  • like
Telling Words
These words usually indicate that you are telling your reader something instead of showing it.
  • saw
  • heard
  • thought
Can You Seem?
What does seem really mean and when you use it, can what you seem really do it? Confused yet? Let’s take a look at an example.
Example… The house seemed quiet.
How can a house seem quiet? Doesn’t a house just sit there, so how would it seem anything at all?
  • seem/seemed
Do you ING?
Watch how many action ing words you use. An overabundance can make a story sound weak. I’m not saying don’t use them just cut it way back and try not to start sentences with an ing words. Remember ing words usually indicate action that is happening now or while something else is happening. If not used in the right way, they can have adverse effects on the way your story plays out.
Lazy Words
These words can be used but are lazy words. They’re a quick easy fix, so instead try taking the road less traveled next time you find yourself using one of these words.
  • briefly
  • good
  • bad
  • nice
  • went
  • came
  • got
  • get
Guilty Pleasure
This word is usually used in an abundance (at least with me), but other words should be used instead for proper wording.
  • as… instead of using as use… while or when
Example… As Robert ran down the street… INSTEAD SAY… While Robert ran down the street.
Give Me Some Slang
These words are used, but are actual NOT real words.
  • alot… proper use is… a lot
  • alright… proper use is… all right
Get Rid of It
This word is used when another word would be much more appropriate. The only thing this word is good for is leaving the reader hanging. What does “it” mean? Who is “it” referring to? Be specific. Take out the it and throw him in the trash before it drives your readers crazy.
Example… It was hot… INSTEAD SAY… The Stove was hot.
  • it
Some of these words were a surprise to me and I’m guilty of more than a few violations, but it’s good to have a list now that I can use as I’m attacking my final draft. I’m sure there are more words out there that are on the “don’t use list” please feel free to leave a comment and add to this list.
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