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Rules for Life

Sound Smarter by Cutting These Words

In our world, people have reverted back to cave paintings to communicate. Yes, emojis are modern day hieroglyphics. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide rely on memes and headlines for their daily dose of news. Everyone wants things said quickly, and shortened attention spans discourage the masses to read more words than necessary.

If you want to keep the attention of your audience, here are some words you can eliminate to sharpen your writing skills and sound more sophisticated:

1. Honestly

“Honestly” is usually used to add emphasis. The problem is, including this word implies the rest of your words beforehand were not the truth. Everything you’re saying should be honest, right?

2. That

“That” is usually unnecessary filler. To check if it is required, find a sentence with “that” in it and read it back to yourself. Then, take “that” out and try it again. If the sentence works without “that”, eliminate it.

In addition, some people use “that” where they should actually use “who”. When referring to a person, use “who” not “that”.

Example: “I’m the guy that loves pizza” should actually be “I’m the guy who loves pizza”.

3. Always, Never

Absolutes lock you into a set position and sound a bit close-minded, which can open the door to criticism regarding potential inaccuracies in your stance. This will dilute your message and shift the focus onto proving you wrong, rather than persuasion. Always/Never are rarely true, though they can be effective for instructions, commands, math and science.

4. Went

I “went” to (fill in the blank). Instead of “went”, try using other verbs like walked, flew, drove, ran, attended, etc. It paints a more detailed picture for your audience, and sounds more interesting.

INSTEAD OF: “I went to Hawaii last year”

USE: “I flew out to Hawaii last year”

5. Very

Precise adjectives don’t need qualifiers like “very”. Very is intended to magnify a verb, an adverb, or an adjective. It inadvertently makes your statement less specific, and better words exist to accurately describe what you intend to say.

INSTEAD OF: “It was a very long wait for our table”

USE: “We waited for our table an hour longer than we should have”

How long is “very long”? Very is highly subjective. Very tall and very cold mean different things to different people. Say “he’s 6’7” and it’s 11 degrees below freezing instead.

6. Amazing, Super

These words are overused and diluted. If everything is amazing or super, nothing actually is. They would all be equal. The more frequently you use these words, the less emphasis they hold. Reserve these words for the truly spectacular.

7. Like

In formal contexts, “like” should not be a word you use to begin a sentence; nor should it fill a space before an adjective. Unless you want to sound like a valley girl straight out of Clueless, like should only be used in the following ways:

    As a verb, meaning “enjoy”: “I like how they cooked the fish”
    With “would” in offers and requests: “would you like another coffee?”
    As a preposition, meaning similar to: “my sister is like my mother…”
    (Informal) As a conjunction: “like any good chef will tell you…”
    As a suffix: “there is something life-like about this doll.”

8. Maybe

“Maybe” conveys uncertainty and detracts from your point. It’s better to live in absolutes and facts, and you’ll sound more informed. If you’re writing about conjecture and conspiracy, it’s understandable that “maybe” will be included. In most other situations, maybe is unnecessary.

9. Just

Unless you’re using “just” as a synonym for equitable, fair, or impartial, it’s simply a filler word. Just cut it out. See what I did there?

INSTEAD OF: “It was just the nicest party”

TRY: “It was the nicest party”

10. Irregardless

Some scholars don’t even believe this is a word! “Irregardless” likely doesn’t mean what you think it means. It’s literally defined as: regardless. Don’t use it, and look more intelligent.

– Your Big Bro

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