Writing 101: Replace Tired Words with Fresh Language

Does your prose droop? Avoid overused words
Does your prose droop? Avoid overused words

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.

10-Minute Exercise

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

 

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