Those of us who write for a living often find ourselves falling into a rut, defaulting to the same words over and over again. Just as each one of us has a distinct fingerprint, every person has an innate rhythm, syntax and pattern when he or she writes–also known as “voice.” The most experienced writers novelists and poets, certainly, but also seasoned business writers and narrative journalists–are able to alter that voice depending on the project.
Regardless of your level of experience, however, all writers can instantly improve their prose by retiring overused words and embracing fresher language.
If you find yourself struggling to find fresh language, take a quick break. Get a sip of water, go for a walk around the block, stand up and stretch. Often just taking your mind of what you are writing will cause the synapses in your brain to re-set and the perfect word will suddenly occur to you.
One way I keep my prose fresh is to randomly choose any letter from the alphabet. I then list every verb I can think of that starts with that letter within a ten-minute time frame. Keep it to verbs only as that will force you to stretch yourself and your prose. After the ten minutes are up, look at your list and circle the words that you are drawn to most.Transfer those circled words to a fresh sheet a paper that you keep by your computer. Each time you do the exercise, always choosing a different letter, add to the list by your computer. In a few weeks, you will have a great list of action words to draw from.
In the meantime, below are twenty words that are often overused by marketers and business executives when describing their company’s capabilities and some suggested alternatives:
Tired Words Suggested Alternatives
Impact Affects, shapes, transforms
Challenges Hurdles, barriers, obstacles, confrontations
Innovates, creates Pioneers, incubates, debuts, introduces, forges
Increases, grows Propels, raises, elevates, multiplies, accelerates
Decreases, reduces Limits, shrinks, inhibits, restricts, lessens
Executes, implements Uses, generates, deploys, utilizes, exercises
Believes, thinks Asserts, suggests, posits, states, promulgates
Ensures, insures Protects, secures, promises, warrants
Provides Proffers, gives, supplies, grants, aides
Succeeds, achieves Excels, surpasses, exceeds, bests, wins, outperforms
Strengthens, supports Bolsters, reinforces, boosts, advocates for
Specializes, expertise Focuses, emphasizes, centers on, showcases
Finalizes Concludes, completes, finishes
Results Remedies, outcomes, objectives, renders, yields
Prevents, limits Bans, bars, prohibits, deters
Estimates Approximates, averages
Solutions Remedies, fixes, addresses, resolves
Capabilities, offerings Skills, abilities, gifts, contributions, menu
Experience Background, knowledge, training, acumen