The crime is unspeakable. Of the utmost disgrace, the mistake is unforgivable.

I apologize for missing two days in a row of Post-A-Day.

To make up for it, I want to address the dead words of writing (credit to my reading/writing teacher for the original idea).


RIP, dead words of writing:

  • said
  • I think/I feel/I believe
  • very/really
  • kids
  • any contractions

That’s all I have currently, but there will be more before long. I want to address these because I’ve seen them often in official writing, whether it be story-writing or formal writing, like a book report or a history paper. These words really bug me sometimes, because they’re incredibly generic and are quite boring to read. Even now, I go back to my old writing and cringe at the amount of “said”s, “kid”s, “really”s, and, in school papers, “I feel”s, “I believe”s, and “didn’t”s, “don’t”s, “wouldn’t”s, etc. I understand that from time to time it’s okay to have the occasional “said,” but try to avoid words like these.

 

“Said”

This word is too often used in dialogue passages. Try to vary your speaker tags with explicit actions and words that actually show expression, or it becomes completely bland and people will never want to read it. Consider this passage, for example:

“Throw the rope,” Bob said.

“Where?” John said. “I don’t see a hook to tie it to.”

“There,” Bob said. He pointed.

“Oh,” John said. He threw the rope.

“Fire!” Bob said. The rope was on fire. John dropped it.

Talk about boring! It was uninteresting even to write. Using “said” may have been okay in first and second grade, but not anymore. Now, consider the same events and dialogue with better speaker tags:

“Throw the rope,” Bob called to John.

“Where?” John replied, scanning the area. “I don’t see a hook to tie it to.”

“There.” Bob pointed to a ledge up the wall where the rope could loop around the jutting edge.

“Oh,” John mumbled, feeling foolish for not having seen it earlier. He threw the rope, pulling it tight around the ledge.

“Fire!” Bob yelped suddenly, and John hurriedly dropped the rope, which burst into flames.

Much better, is it not? Expanding on speaker tags using actions and expressive words can give your writing an enormous boost.

 

“I think,” “I feel,” “I believe”

Never let this appear on a formal paper. You are not speaking to the reader, you are explaining something. Unless it is a letter to someone or anything of the sort, this should never be seen. “I think” is a first-grade response, “I feel” is a third-grade response, and “I believe” is a whole other level altogether. Sure, in a writing showcasing your personal opinion, you might say “I believe this, this, and this” or “I feel that blah blah blah,” but avoid it if you can.

 

“Very” and “Really”

These are usually just for basic emphasis. One might say “the death toll due to car accidents is very high,” or “many have said that the level in question is really tough to beat.” Emphasis is not what I’m discouraging here, it’s the use of such basic words like “really” and “very.” If you have to put emphasis on something, try enhancing your vocabulary to more advanced terms, such as “incredibly” or “enormously” instead.

 

“Kids”

This is by far my favorite to discuss. “Kids” is generally used to describe young children, but is very informal. In fact, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “kid” means 1. a baby goat, or 2. the flesh, fur, or skin of a young goat. Therefore, using “kids” in a formal writing piece literally means that you are referring to baby goats.

kids-meme

Instead, try using better words such as “children” or “students” (if it fits).

 

Contractions

These, of course, are fine in informal writing, or else why would they be around? However, in formal writing, such as a history paper, a book report, or a business letter, these should be nonexistent. “Don’t” becomes “do not,” “wouldn’t” becomes “would not,” etc. Basically, all contractions should be separated.


That’s currently all I have on the list of dead words, but more will come soon. I just ask you now to keep these in mind, because they’re not only my pet peeve, but other people share this annoyance for these bland words. Spice it up a little, and you’ll find that a lot more people will find time to read what you write.

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