Beyond Words: What to Cut and Why
As a long time PR practitioner, I know where my communication strengths lie: in the written word. It’s much easier for me to pen my thoughts – or the thoughts of others – and then cut them down to more quickly get to the point. Not so easy to do when I’m speaking, especially since there isn’t a chance to delete what’s already been said!
I came across a post last night on Entrepreneur.com that shared 10 words that should be eliminated from any writing to make it stronger. These superfluous words apply to the spoken word as well, although removing some will take a bit more practice for some – including yours truly!
Here are the suggestions from writer Shanna Mallon:
1. Just: The word “just” is a filler word that weakens your writing. Removing it rarely affects meaning, but rather, the deletion tightens a sentence.
2. Really: Using the word “really” is an example of writing the way you talk. It’s a verbal emphasis that doesn’t translate perfectly into text. In conversation, people use the word frequently, but in written content it’s unnecessary. Think about the difference between saying a rock is “hard” and “really hard,” for example. What does the word add? Better to cut it out to make your message stronger.
3. Very: Everything that applies to “really” applies to “very.” It’s a weak word. Cut it.
4. Perhaps/maybe: Do you want your audience to think you’re uncertain about what you’re saying? When you use words like “maybe” and “perhaps,” uncertainty is exactly what you’re communicating.
5. Quite: When someone uses “quite,” he or she either means “a bit” or “completely” or “almost.” Sometimes the word adds meaning; sometimes it’s fluff. Learn to tell the difference–but, when in doubt, cut it out.
6. Amazing: The meaning of “amazing” is causing great wonder or surprise–but some writers use the word so often that the meaning gets lost. How can something be amazing if everything is? Ditch this diluted word.
7. Literally: When something is true in a literal sense, you don’t have to add the word “literally.” The only reason it makes sense to use the word is when it clarifies meaning (i.e., to explain you aren’t joking when it seems you are).
8. Stuff: Unless you are aiming at informality, don’t use the word “stuff.” It’s casual, it’s generic, and it usually stands in for something better.
9. Things: Writers use the word “things” to avoid using a clearer, more specific word that would communicate more meaning. Be specific. Don’t tell us about the “10 things,” tell us about the “10 books” or “10 strategies.” Specificity makes for better writing.
10. Got: Think of all the ways we use the vague word “got” in conversation: “I’ve got to go,” “I got a ball,” or “I got up this morning.” Though it’s fine for conversation, in writing, “got” misses valuable opportunities. Rather than writing a lazy word, look for clearer, more descriptive language: “I promised I’d leave by 9,” “I picked up a ball,” or “I woke up today,” for example.
Are there any words you don’t think are necessary when written – or spoken?