Writers are great at crafting pretty sentences, penning descriptive scenes, and telling an overall story. However, even the most seasoned writer runs into repetitive words that reduce the power of their writing. You might see commonly overused words such as “just,” “really,” or “very” in certain pieces of writing. How do you overcome this literary obstacle in your own writing and reduce your chances of coming across as redundant? Well, don’t worry, because we have you covered with six tips for avoiding overused words in your writing below.
A great tip to avoiding overused words within your writing is to become aware of your word crutches. No matter what level of writer you are, you have a voice, which consists of frequently used sentence structures and phrases. Write down. Some of the glaring phrases and try to come up with different ways of writing that sentence. This will help reduce your chances of repetitiveness in your writing and help you become stronger in terms of your style. If you have a hard time identifying these words and phrases in your own writing, reach out to a trusted friend with a critical eye who can help point out your word crutches for you. Becoming less reliant on your word crutches will build your confidence and help ease your journey of becoming the best writer you can possibly be.
Sometimes returning back to basics is the smartest way to avoid overused words in your writing. One of the most reliable tools you should take advantage of is the thesaurus. You can buy a physical thesaurus or use online tools such as Power Thesaurus, Visual Thesaurus, and WordWeb to find similar words. Whatever thesaurus you decide to use will give countless word choices similar to the one you’re trying to replace. Let’s say you use “really,” and you’ll find a bunch of synonyms such as actually, absolutely, easily, truly, or indeed. Try to figure out what’s the best word to replace the one you’re overusing, and you’ll be good to go.
Read Writing Out Loud
Writers look at their work over and over again during the revision polish and sometimes start to overlook certain words. Reading your writing out loud may help you catch your overused words more easily than scrolling through your documents for hours. It may feel weird reading your work out loud, but the time and benefits will be worth it. If something sounds off or you notice a specific word frequently, then you should cut it. This technique will give you an extra layer of security and strengthen your writing in the long run.
Make a List
More times than not, writers are usually self-aware of certain words they tend to overuse while writing. Make a list you can keep on hand digitally or physically consisting of your most overused words. For example, some of these overused words could be “very,” “always,” “things,” etc. Many writing programs feature search options, where you can find all of the words you know you overuse on a frequent basis. You have to ask yourself if these words are truly necessary. If the answer is no, then delete it and move on, knowing you made the right choice.
Look Up Words
Another key tip any writer can take advantage of is looking up words. This practice may seem simple, but even novice writers may get a specific word wrong from time to time. So it’s important to look up the meaning of the word you’re using even if it’s descriptive. You might be surprised to learn the word you’re using doesn’t mean what you think and could be conveying the wrong message. Cultivate the habit of looking up words, so you can get rid of overused ones. For example, the pendejo meaning is commonly used as an insult, but the word translates into pubic hair at the root. You may take a step back and decide a different word is more appropriate to the message you’re trying to get across.
Writers spend hours revising and polishing their work all in an attempt to produce their best pieces possible. However, overused words and repetitive phrases are a thorn in almost every writer’s side. There is a multitude of ways to overcome this hurdle within your writing. Taking the time to identify and break the habit of relying on word crutches is one way while pulling out the old thesaurus can help you come up with synonyms for certain words. Reading your writing out loud could help you catch overused words on a more frequent basis while making a list of your overused words could help you break the pattern over time. Lastly, looking up the meaning of words can help you become more specific and better convey your intended messages to readers. These five tips could help even the most seasoned writer avoid overused words in their writing and open up a new path of creativity.