Writer, Editor, Blogger

Words to ELIMINATE from Your Writing


Jun 16, 2013 Reading + Writing 18 Comments


I just finished the first draft of DIVE (Hooray!), but now I’m left with no writing to do (Boo!). So I decided to compile a list of words to eliminate from my writing once I get back to work on my manuscript.

With the help of Twitter and Facebook, I came up with a pretty solid list. Obviously this is a) not a complete list, and b) not meant to suggest that you MUST ALWAYS REMOVE THESE WORDS.

In fact…a lot of the time these words are EXTREMELY useful (see what I did there?)

Take a look, and if you can think of any more words to add to my list, let me know in the comments!


• Very/Really/Totally/Extremely
• Basically/Actually/Generally
• Definitely
• Suddenly/ All of a sudden
• Then
• In order to
• Is/Am/Are/Was/Were
• Started/Began
• That
• Like
• Had
• Got
• So
• Individual (#25!!)
• Just
• Kind of/Sort of/Type of
• I believe
• Specific/Particular
• Seems

• Saw/Heard/Felt



• Thing

• Up/Down/Back/Around

• Maybe

• Might/Could/May

• Possibly

• Always (#50!!!!)

• But

• Actually

• Being

Will this list help you with your writing? Do you disagree with my list? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!



  • Jody
    Jun 16, 2013 at 7:25 pm Reply

    Said, sighed, gazed, answered…to name a few. I find that I also get stuck on repeating specific phrases.

  • Shae Connor
    Jun 16, 2013 at 7:25 pm Reply

    First draft of my first novel, I removed about 300 instances of “really.” From 86,000 words. I put myself in Really Rehab. 🙂

  • Vicki L Weavil
    Jun 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm Reply

    A few more —


  • G. Donald Cribbs
    Jun 16, 2013 at 7:42 pm Reply

    I’d add “maybe” to this list. I have several words like that but I’d say each author has his/her own faux pas words that they overuse. An easy way to fix this is when reading through a draft (out loud works best), when you notice an often repeated word, use the find/replace function and it will tell you exactly how many are in your manuscript of that particular word. It will be clear very quickly if you’ve located another word to search and destroy.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • Jordan
    Jun 16, 2013 at 7:46 pm Reply

    One of the worst and most meaningless words ever: thing(s).

  • Charlie Holmberg
    Jun 16, 2013 at 11:39 pm Reply

    I don’t really see any benefit to taking out “individual” and “had,” ha!

  • Dad
    Jun 17, 2013 at 12:12 am Reply

    Never, always

  • Feliza C.
    Jun 17, 2013 at 4:08 am Reply

    “That” is actually my very least favorite word ever, because I have a journalism degree and the Associated Press removes “that” in almost every instance.

  • Rebecca Enzor
    Jun 17, 2013 at 7:35 pm Reply

    “reached” is one of my problem words. I’m constantly using it in place of a stronger sentence. I’ve learned to look for it and I almost always re-write the sentence to get that ugly word out.

  • Jashana
    Jun 17, 2013 at 10:28 pm Reply

    I’m having troubles with “had” in my novel. The main character is telling her life story just before her death… so it’s a lot of, “He had never said that to me before” (or other such sentences). Gah!

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  • Carol McKenzie
    Jun 21, 2013 at 10:37 pm Reply

    I had so many instances of “sighed” in one story I ended up writing dialog for a character that said “I do so much sighing these days.” And then never used it again.

    I get lazy and/or rushed and use “something” quite a bit. I know that so I do a search and then try to figure out what that “something” should be…and replace with a much stronger word.

    Sometimes I get fixated on some random word. My son reads drafts for me; one of the first thing he will point out is repetitive word usage. “You’re doing it again…here.” And I get a page with check marks all over it.

  • LD Masterson
    Jul 4, 2013 at 5:41 am Reply

    Perfect timing – I’m at the point in my editing where I’m searching for overused words. I think you’ve got most of mine – “just” and “actually” show up way too often and my characters are always “grinning”. Thanks for the list.

  • matt
    Jul 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm Reply

    any adverb to me is open for elimination. also, i like to keep action words that create visual flow. haruki murakami has that gift

  • Caryn Caldwell
    Aug 2, 2013 at 10:13 pm Reply

    Love this list! I keep a running document with words to eliminate, but I think I’m going to have to go add a few of these. Thanks for compiling this!

  • B.A. Wilson
    Dec 9, 2013 at 2:38 am Reply

    I’m a horrible abuser of the word “just” and do edits JUST to remove it. Sadly, I sometimes have a “really” and “that” problem also. 🙂

    Actually is somehow on both the good and bad list. Which should it really be on? I’m feeling confused about that one now.

  • Nicole Pyles
    Apr 2, 2014 at 11:46 pm Reply

    I’m editing a short story and removed about 32 instances of “had” 🙂 I have a long way to go 🙂 Thank you for this great list!

  • Lisa
    May 15, 2014 at 8:21 pm Reply

    Somehow. Every revision, I go through and take out the “Somehows.” I think I put them there as a place holder until I figure out HOW.

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