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Words to Knock Out of Your Writing

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Flat Modifiers
Flat Modifiers are words or phrases that attempt to make other words stronger. Flat modifiers are lazy words and tend to make writing dull and boring instead of strengthening it. Knock flat modifiers out of your writing or replace with stronger word choices.

  • really
  • actually
  • very
  • totally
  • completely
  • very
  • so
  • easily
  • specifically
  • quite

Example 1: Linda really liked Bob’s painting. The painting was actually really nice. vs. Linda liked (or loved) Bob’s painting. The painting was breathtaking (or beautiful, amazing).

Example 2: He totally liked the way Miranda looked in the black dress. She was really quite pretty. vs. He loved the way Miranda looked in the black dress. She was stunning (or gorgeous, beautiful).

Qualifiers
Qualifiers are words or phrases typically used to modify another word. Qualifiers often mean weak adjectives or nouns were used instead of stronger words and can weaken your writing. Knock qualifiers out of your writing or replace with stronger word choices.

  • just
  • a little
  • quite
  • almost
  • nearly
  • probably
  • possibly
  • rather
  • only
  • fairly
  • indeed
  • somewhat
  • very
  • still

Example 1: Mark just needed only one more part to finish his go-cart. vs. Mark needed one more part to finish his go-cart.

Example 2: Giving a speech in front of the class was probably the hardest thing Mariah had ever done. vs. Giving a speech in front of the class was the hardest thing Mariah had ever done.

Example 3: Trevor was somewhat angry he missed the bus. vs. Trevor was upset (or frustrated) he missed the bus.

Example 4: Tara was very angry when John knocked her in the mud. vs. Tara was irate (or furious, enraged, outraged, indignant, irritated, incensed) when John knocked her in the mud.

Other Words to Knock Out of Your Writing

  • suddenly/all of a sudden
  • immediately
  • instantly
  • again/once again/once more—if they don’t add something or clarify meaning, knock them out.
  • thing/stuff—usually not sufficient; be more descriptive when possible.
  • not—write affirmatively rather than negatively. (He left the party. vs. He didn’t stay at the party.)
  • that—often a superfluous and unnecessary filler word. (Jasper didn’t admit that he had taken the last five cookies that Sylvia had baked. vs. Jasper didn’t admit he had taken the last five cookies Sylva had baked.)

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15 comments

As I continue with the ninth draft of my latest novel, I am already working hard to cut out dead sentences and words which have invited themselves.
Do I intend to check for all these procrasti/quali/modi/lazy words in the next draft?
I think I will Kelly … even if it adds another two or three days to the task.
Thanks for another great post, and my one wish is that more ‘writers’ will read this.

Amor Libris (Kelly Hartigan)

Thank you, Tom. I hope it doesn’t add two or three more days to your elf-editing tasks.

A very helpful post, Kelly. I need to save this somewhere. 🙂
Kathy

I just love these grammar blog posts of yours. Apparently, I use Idlers & qualifiers, and after reading this I understand why I should refrain from their use. However, there is always a ‘however’.
For example : Giving a speech in front of the class was probably the hardest thing Mariah had ever done. vs. Giving a speech in front of the class was the hardest thing Mariah had ever done.
I get it. I really do.
However, in this example of yours, the meaning might be different if Mariah was the protagonist rather than just a character.
The ‘probably’ might fit better, if Mariah was a secondry character being ‘observed’ by the protagonist. The protagonist does not really know for sure whether it is the hardest trial faced by Mariah. However, your amended sentence works perfectly when Mariah is the protagonist.
That is why i still use qualifiers. Am I wrong to do so?

It was agreed; there were to be no exceptions, and the idlers would have to fall in line.
With that said, there was an uncomfortable air settle over the room as Senan stood up for the idlers. However, the majority wanted him to shut up and sit down, and as the crowd grew increasingly hostile, Senan realised that he would have to go.

[…] Words to knock out of your writing. Procrastinators, idlers, flat modifiers, qualifiers, and other words that weaken writing and should be eliminated.  […]

I am notorious for using a lot of these words and phrases. This is a great guide to use to remove these words from my writing. Procrastinators and idlers are the ones I use most.

I use a lot of these words all the time. I had no clue that I was using them so often though until I went back to look at some of my writing. Looks like I will have to rework some of these.

What a great post. This is extremely helpful for me. I have a really big desire to wrote a book, but sometimes my lack of experience in writing holds me back. This gave me confidence. It will also help me writing my blog! Thanks!

I am guilty of every one of these. I think I need to save this post as my wallpaper! This is so helpful to me. I have been working to try to make my writing stronger lately and this clarifies a number of things that stick out in my work. Thank you!

Gets you thinking, and inspires me to write a story. Thank you! x

Guilty as a procrastinators! I use those words quite a bit. Time to revamp on my writing skills.

Very useful pointers. As we write, words do tend to gatecrash. I think these are words to lookout for while editing and make the writing more crisper.

That was a great grammar lesson, especially about flat modifiers. We have all been guilty of using ‘lazy’ words x

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