Top Ten Words To Avoid In Content –
Writing relevant content which maintains interest is no easy task, especially if this is not your main skillset.
However, there are tricks which help transform a dull piece of copy into something worthy of people’s attention. And most importantly, anyone can do this!
Learn to Edit your work
Admittedly this is tough, but if you don’t have an editor at your disposal, you’ll need to learn.
Often, people write as they think – this is ok, providing you tidy your sentences afterwards. Writing in the manner in which we speak does not always communicate clearly in written form.
I’ve compiled a list of words to avoid when writing content. On their own or used correctly, none of these words is particularly heinous. My advice, if you don’t know how to use these words accurately, simply avoid them.
This is one of the words I probably cut from content works the most. Using this word is not the worst grammatical crime in the world, but removing ‘that’ from copy helps to sharpen text, keeping the flow cleaner and easier to read.
I live in Suffolk, and one of my favourite colloquialisms is the phrase, ‘that is, that is’. Priceless.
I would not change this phrase for anything, I adore colloquialisms. But, with this in mind, look at the sentences below to understand how ‘that’ is commonly misused in sentence structure:
- The doctor claimed that running up a hill would be a good idea
- She refused to admit that she was responsible for losing her house keys
- The research that I undertook last year was rubbish
Now change these sentences to:
- The doctor claimed running up a hill would be a good idea
- She refused to admit she was responsible for losing her house keys
- The research I undertook last year was rubbish
Do you see how much cleaner and snappier the sentences are to read? There is actual grammatical reasoning behind all of these sentences involving clauses and nouns – but for now, work on the theory that if a sentence works without ‘that’, then do not use it.
It’s absolutely acceptable to write you like something in the respect of enjoyment, but it is not acceptable to overuse this when writing, as people commonly do when talking.
- It was like, a big deal and like, we didn’t know how to cope
- I was like, terrified
- My dog, just like ran off in the opposite direction. I was like, so mad.
When people overuse the word like it is usually to try and describe something they are already experiencing, therefore you do not need to use this word. Like is mainly used when placing a simile into a sentence such as, ‘the red wine was like the colour of a deep burgundy rose’. However, in the above examples, people use like purely as a sentence filler and it serves no purpose.
Try these sentences instead:
- It was a big deal and we struggled to know how to cope
- I was terrified
- My dog just ran off in the opposite direction. I was so mad with him.
See the difference and how pleasant it is to read a sentence without like being used for no reason?
Ugh! This word is just plain ol’fashioned grim. Even worse, gotten. Double ugh! First, this verb never ceases to be vague in usage, second, it just sounds so crass, and third, it is a lazy word – by this I mean, it’s a copout. There are plenty of other words which will allow your writing to be better understood. Let me demonstrate below:
- I got up this morning …. (are you in a blues song?)
- I got breakfast
- I got myself some jeans and tops in the mall (you sound like you’ve fallen out of a modern day Gone With The Wind)
- With time he went and got himself a coffee
- I awoke, dressed and was ready for the day
- I made myself breakfast
- In the mall I bought a pair of jeans and a couple of cute tops
- In his own time, he poured a strong, black coffee
Some is such a vague, non descriptor. By using some, it essentially suggests you have zero imagination and an incredibly limited vocabulary. For example:
- We have some new and exciting stock on our shelves
- There are some issues we need to address
- There are some children who are happier at school than others
Consider these sentences without the use of some
- We are currently stocking new and exciting items including…
- Overall, we are happy with the progress of this company, however, there are pertinent issues we still need to address. These we shall clearly outline below….
- On average, our results demonstrate a larger percentage of happy children at school….
Really? I mean, like really??! This word is often overused and frankly, rarely required. Mainly it becomes a passive or dead verb – making it harder to read a sentence and offering nothing. As you will notice in the sentences below, removing the ‘really’ does not affect the sentence, nor does the sentence lack a sense of urgency or importance through its removal:
- He really needed to visit a hair dresser
- I rarely really wanted to eat chocolate
- The first impression is really the most important impression
Without using really:
- He needed to visit a hair dresser
- I rarely wanted to eat chocolate
- The first impression is the most important
Come on! Who in their right mind actually thinks this word makes them sound professional?!
- The stuff was in the corner of the room
- There was plenty of books, tables, chairs and other stuff for the inmates
- Butterflies, moths and frames filled with other stuff were on the walls of the room
- All the items were collated in the corner of the room
- Aside from the usual array of tables and chairs, books and other educational paraphernalia were available for the inmates
- Butterflies, moths and a cornucopia of other fascinating collections were housed in frames on the dining room walls
We tend to use this word regularly in speech. This understandably becomes overused and in writing can be unnecessary in many sentences. For example:
- He then got up and then walked over
- Then the light flickered, the children jumped and then ran
- The research demonstrates how the marketing department then chose
By removing then, your sentences become tighter and easier to comprehend:
- He stood and walked over
- The light flickered, the children jumped and ran
- The research demonstrates how the marketing department chose
Very rarely do we require the word ‘very’! Overuse lessens the importance of its meaning. See below:
- I very much look forward to your reply
- It is very important the course of antibiotics is completely finished
- The white paper’s content page is a very essential part of the overall paper
- I look forward to your reply
- It is important to fully complete the course of antibiotics
- The content page is an essential part of the white paper
Only use thing if you genuinely cannot think of another word! There will always be a better term.
- The thing was, no one understood him
- I knew one thing
- In this report I intend to explain how different things affect the outcome
- The problem being no one understood him
- I knew one fact
- In this report I intend to explain how different variables affect the outcome
Loads should refer to weight or bulky items, often requiring moving. Unless you are discussing weight this word is vague and inaccurate.
- There was a load of soldiers standing
- I saw loads of seagulls flying
- If I had loads of money, I could buy
- There was a lorry-load of soldiers standing
- I witnessed a flock of seagulls
- If I had enough money, I could buy
As I explained earlier, there is nothing particularly wrong with any of these words, if used correctly. However, in my experience of editing and proofreading, they are overused. If you can learn how to avoid them, your content will be stronger.
Let me know your thoughts!