8 Overused and Meaningless Words to Avoid

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

There are about one million English words, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. If you’re a writer, you have plenty to choose from. You have no reason to resort to overused words that have become meaningless.

Some hackneyed words are fine (and even fun) to use informally, such as when you’re trading email or Skype messages with friends. Avoid them in serious writing.

There will always be exceptions, such as in fiction, when you’re writing dialogue in a novel or short story. Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” is a good example of this exception. Otherwise, avoid or at least limit the use of these words:

Apparently. Something that appears to be true based on what is known or what you see.

In Donna Tartt’s Puliter Prize-winning novel, “The Goldfinch,” a character named Xandra, Theo’s dad’s girlfriend, uses this word as her standard answer to almost any question. Xandra is not a likeable character. Don’t mimic her.

Awesome. To cause wonder, awe, or fear.

Most people use it to express a positive feeling. For example, when Harry finds a parking spot downtown, he says it’s awesome. When he sees the Grand Canyon for the first time, he says the same thing. Only the latter is worthy of being described as an awesome experience.

Honestly. In an honorable or honest way.

This word is meaningless when it’s used as an opener, such as, “Honestly, I’m so tired today.”

Literally. In the strictest and literal sense of the word.

Most people say literally for emphasis. So, when someone says “I was literally dying from embarrassment”—don’t believe that person because nobody dies from embarrassment.

Really.  To refer to something factual or real.

It has become a form of superlative, such as, “The baby was really cute.” Some people would say really twice for emphasis, “The baby was really, really cute.”

Seriously. In a serious or grave manner.

This has become an expression of sarcasm. For example, when Leila left for college, her mom asked her to call every day. Leila responded, “Seriously, Mom.”

Totally or Totes. Completely or entirely.

Today most people use this word to mean “very much.” For example, “My brother totally likes chocolate gelato.”

Whatever. Anything, everything, or no matter what.

It could also express one’s resignation or negativity. Going back to Leila whose mom expects her to call every day. She might say, “Whatever, Mom,” coupled with an eye roll.

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA


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  1. Reblogged this on Leena Maria.

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