42 Words and Phrases to Avoid As You Write

Have you ever found yourself reading literature with phrases you feel like the author shouldn’t have added? Or is that author you? No need to feel ashamed; we all make mistakes. Read on and see how you can improve your writing. But first, here’s an example of a weak paragraph. How much does this make you cringe?

Firstly, I really really needed to go and visit them because I had literally not talked to them for like, a whole year or something, and that’s considered to be rude, right? But that was because we live so far away and they hardly ever answer my emails, phone calls etc. Also, I needed to tell them the good news: I tried and tried and tried and had finally gotten a job!!!

The following was taken from the Guide to Grammar and Writing and Litreactor.

Avoid problems created by these words or phrases:

  1. And also This is often redundant.
  2. And/or Outside of the legal world, most of the time this construction is used, it is neither necessary nor logical. Try using one word or the other.
  3. As to whether The single word whether will suffice.
  4. Basically, essentially, totally These words seldom add anything useful to a sentence. Try the sentence without them and, almost always, you will see the sentence improve.
  5. Being that or being as These words are a non-standard substitute for because. Being that Because I was the youngest child, I always wore hand-me-downs.
  6. Considered to be Eliminate the to be and, unless it’s important who’s doing the considering, try to eliminate the entire phrase.
  7. Due to the fact that Using this phrase is a sure sign that your sentence is in trouble. Did you mean because? Due to is acceptable after a linking verb (The team’s failure was due to illness among the stars.); otherwise, avoid it.
  8. Each and every One or the other, but not both.
  9. Equally as Something can be equally important or as important as, but not equally as important.
  10. Etc. This abbreviation often suggests a kind of laziness. It might be better to provide one more example, thereby suggesting that you could have written more, but chose not to.
  11. He/she is a convention created to avoid gender bias in writing, but it doesn’t work very well and it becomes downright obtrusive if it appears often. Use he or she or pluralize (where appropriate) so you can avoid the problem of the gender-specific pronoun altogether.
  12. Firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc. Number things with first, second, third, etc. and not with these adverbial forms.
  13. Got Many writers regard got as an ugly word, and they have a point. If you can avoid it in writing, do so. I have got to must begin studying right away. I have got two pairs of sneakers.
  14. Had ought or hadn’t ought. Eliminate the auxiliary had. You hadn’t ought not to pester your sister that way.
  15. Interesting One of the least interesting words in English, the word you use to describe an ugly baby. If you show us why something is interesting, you’re doing your job. Consider “I find that plant’s long leaves, gooey fruit and gooier sap fascinating; how much did you buy it for?” instead of “That plant is interesting.”
  16. In terms of See if you can eliminate this phrase.
  17. Irregardless No one word will get you in trouble with the boss faster than this one.
  18. Kind of or sort of. These are OK in informal situations, but in formal academic prose, substitute somewhat, rather or slightly. We were kind of rather pleased with the results.
  19. Literally This word might be confused with literarily, a seldom used adverb relating to authors or scholars and their various professions. Usually, though, if you say it’s “literally a jungle out there,” you probably mean figuratively, but you’re probably better off without either word.
  20. Lots or lots of In academic prose, avoid these colloquialisms when you can use many or much. Remember, when you do use these words, that lots of something countable are plural. Remember, too, that a lot of requires three words: “He spent a lot of money” (not alot of).
  21. Just Use only when you need it, as in just the right amount.
  22. Nature See if you can get rid of this word. Movies of a violent nature are probably just violent movies.
  23. Necessitate It’s hard to imagine a situation that would necessitate the use of this word.
  24. Of Don’t write would of, should of, could of when you mean would have, should have, could have.
  25. On account of Use because instead.
  26. Only Look out for placement. Don’t write “He only kicked that ball ten yards” when you mean “He kicked that ball only ten yards.”
  27. Orientate The new students become oriented, not orientated. The same thing applies to administrate — we administer a project.
  28. Per Use according to instead. We did it per your instructions? Naah. (This word is used frequently in legal language and in technical specifications, where it seems to be necessary and acceptable.)
  29. Plus Don’t use this word as a conjunction. Use and instead.
  30. Point in time Forget it! At this time or at this point or now will do the job.
  31. Previous as in “our previous discussion.” Use earlier or nothing at all.
  32. So as to Usually, a simple to will do.
  33. Suddenly  Slows down the action and warns your reader. Just saying what happens. When using “suddenly,” you communicate through the narrator that the action seemed sudden. By jumping directly into the action, you allow the reader to experience that suddenness first hand.
  34. Suppose to, use to. The hard “d” sound in supposed to and used to disappears in pronunciation, but it shouldn’t disappear in spelling. “We used to do that” or “We were supposed to do it this way.”
  35. The reason why is because. Deja vu all over again!
  36. Thru This nonstandard spelling of through should not be used in academic prose.
  37. ‘Til Don’t use this word instead of until or till, even in bad poetry.
  38. Try and Don’t try and do something. Try to do something.
  39. Thusly Use thus or therefore instead.
  40. Utilize Don’t use this word where use would suffice. (Same goes for utilization.)
  41. Very, really, quite (and other intensifiers) Like basically, these words seldom add anything useful. Try the sentence without them and see if it improves.
  42. Get to the mark!! This isn’t exactly a phrase, but dude, try not to use so many exclamation and question marks. Before you do, ask yourself, are you, or that character, really that excited or curious? “I am not that excited!” sounds much better than “I am not that excited!!!!!!”, and the same goes for “Wait, what?????” vs. “Wait, what?”

Remember that paragraph at the beginning of this post? Put yourself to the test and try correcting it so that people will actually want to read it. How well can you do? 🙂