Published on 30th Nov., 2017

8 Words to Eliminate from Your Writing

If you want your writing to pack a punch, there are specific words to watch out for. These words tend to be lazy and ambiguous, taking up space without adding clarity to your piece.

It can be difficult to catch these words while writing a first draft, but fortunately, they’re easy to spot while editing. Removing them will shorten your word count and make your writing more powerful to the reader.

1. That

Nine times out of ten, the meaning of a sentence remains the same when you remove ‘that.’ Try reading the sentence without it and if it still makes sense, cut ‘that’ out.

I went to a midnight release party the night that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out. I went to a midnight release party the night Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out.

2. Then

Similar to ‘that,’ the meaning of sentence doesn’t change when you remove ‘then.’ You can cut this word to avoid clutter in your writing.

She finished dinner and then made a cup of tea. She finished dinner and made a cup of tea.

3. Little bit

These descriptors are often paired together, but they mean the same thing - so it’s redundant to use both. Pick one or the other and call it a day.

He would like a little bit more chocolate, please. He would like a little more chocolate, please.

4. Very

‘Very’ is an ineffective modifier that doesn’t mean much. Replace ‘very’ with a stronger adjective instead.

She was wearing a very nice red dress. She was wearing a glamorous red dress.

5. Just

‘Just’ is the ambiguous word I catch in my writing the most. More often than not, you can take it out and the sentence will remain the same.

Your editor will just delete it for you. Your editor will delete it for you.

6. In order to

Every time you catch ‘in order to’ in your writing, use ‘to’ instead. It’s succinct and cuts two needless words.

Get to the fireworks early in order to find a spot. Get to the fireworks early to find a spot.

7. Literally

When you’re writing about something that is true, you don’t have to add ‘literally.’ Plus, now that ‘literally’ can also mean figuratively in pop culture (sigh), it’s best to stay away from this one.

The forest is literally full of thousands of animals. The forest is full of thousands of animals.

8. Perhaps

‘Perhaps’ is used to express uncertainty or possibility, and unless that is the meaning you’re aiming for, it makes your writing sound unsure. Remove ‘perhaps’ to inject more confidence in your writing.

Perhaps she is not interested in reading your book. She is not interested in reading your book.

Improve your writing instantly and effortlessly by removing these few words. Even if you don’t eliminate them, decreasing their use will make your writing clearer and more impactful.

Robyn Petrik is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada, and specializes in writing blog posts and social media content for creative small businesses. Along with writing, she also spends time painting on her iPad, reading, hiking, and eating too much peanut butter. You can learn more about Robyn at and connect with her on Twitter.

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