Have you ever started to read an article only to find yourself distracted, or even confused, before you had finished the first paragraph?
From a reader’s perspective, few things are worse than a piece of content filled with unnecessary words. Clunky, repetitive writing on your blog can quickly take away the credibility you’ve worked so hard to build!
In this post I’ve listed seven common words and phrases that you’re probably using in your writing, but shouldn’t be. If you want to improve your writing and provide your audience with more valuable content, start by eliminating these words and phrases.
“Believe” & “Think”
People understand your writing is based on your opinion – it’s your writing. But when you use words like “I think…” or “I believe…”, it makes you sound unsure, and your audience will lose confidence in you. Eliminate these “insecurity” phrases and get straight to the point.
This is especially important for business owners, like our clients, who are thought leaders within their industry. Strong, confident writing builds trust that you know what you’re talking about (because you do!) and is more persuasive for your audience.
Totally. Completely. Absolutely. Actually. Literally. Should I keep going? These words are almost always unnecessary because your sentence reads the same without them.
For example, “The basket was completely full of laundry,” reads the same as, “The basket was full of laundry.”
If you want to be an overachiever, don’t just remove a useless adverb, but find a better alternative. Change, “The basket was completely full of laundry,” to, “The basket was stuffed with laundry,” or, “The basket was overflowing with laundry,” for ultimate impact.
“Actions speak louder than words.”
“You can’t please everyone.”
“There’s no time like the present.”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
A good writer avoids clichés. They’re old and tired thanks to years of overuse, and they’re often a crutch to use instead of communicating in a more original way.
Most of the time clichés can be reduced to one or two words that convey the same meaning, or you can remove them completely without changing the meaning of your sentence.
“In order to”
Although it’s common in writing, “in order to” is a redundant phrase. You can eliminate “in order” and leave “to” alone to do the same job.
For example: “In order to meet your deadline, you must start writing on Monday,” can simply be, “To meet your deadline, you must start writing on Monday.”
While there’s technically nothing wrong with the word “things”, it’s vague and generic.
Words like “things” and “stuff” are really just placeholders for something better. If those “things” are important enough to share with your audience, explain them. Describe them. Tell us why they matter.
The same goes for using “things” in a blog title. Get creative! Use a more enticing word that encourages your audience to click.
This one’s tough because it slips right into your writing without you realizing it. Even though most of us use the word “that” when we speak, it’s a word
that we can almost always eliminate in our writing.
Example: This is the most dramatic episode of The Bachelor
that I’ve ever watched.
If your sentence works without the word “that”, and most do, delete it and use those characters somewhere else.
“I” & “Me”
This one’s a bit different than the rest of the list. While the other examples are technical, this one is focused on engagement.
When it comes to online content, especially blogging, it’s tempting to make your writing me-focused. But filling an article with I’s and me’s is one of the quickest ways to lose your reader’s attention – possibly for good.
Copyblogger explains it here perfectly, but to sum it up: You only benefit when your readers benefit first.
So ask yourself this: Who is your blog post focused on? If it’s predominantly you, consider swapping some of those I’s and me’s for content that focuses on your audience.
It can be tough to find the balance between creating content that’s technically perfect and content that’s conversational and enjoyable for your audience. While you may not need to eliminate these words completely, give your next blog post an extra pass to check for them. You might be surprised how many sentences you’re able to improve, and your readers will be glad you did.