A List of Forbidden Words
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to clean up my language. No, I’m not going to stop swearing, you jerk. I want to remove some of those unnecessary words from my writing. I’m utilizing the power of Microsoft Word to bring the truly sneaky ones to my attention. Each word is added to the autocorrect menu of Word, set to bold and highlight the text upon the use of the word. It’s somewhat of a running list, so this may be updated again.
Get / Got – This is, by far, the worst offender. It is an incredibly pervasive word that manages to sneak in front of nearly every verb. I got on the bus. I got a Zune for Christmas. I got in your way. I got smacked for using that word over and over. There’s always a better word. I stepped onto the bus. I received a Zune. I stood in your way. My editor punched me for using that word again. Mimicking Japanese pidgin English is an acceptable use – “Coin Get!” – in my own wrong opinion.
Basically and Essentially – These words should never, ever be used in writing for any reason. They add nothing. To anything.
Actually – If you’re not actually saying what you want to say, then you need to rewrite your sentence.
So – I use this one in speech constantly as a sentence starter. In writing, it’s a meaningless way to emphasize a statement. “Sitcom X is so amazing.” Isn’t the word amazing enough?
On that note, I also am working to eliminate crippled hyperbole. Phrases like “kind of amazing,” “sort of totaled,” etc. work against themselves.
My main teachers in this school of clarity and thoughtful are The Elements of Style and George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language.” Both books are indispensible 60+ years after their original publishing. If nothing else, proper punctuation and correct spelling make The Elements of Style worth purchasing. Seeing the list of outdated metaphors in Orwell’s essay is downright terrifying. Almost 65 years later, we’re still saying “toe the line,” and even worse it’s still being spelled tow. I will admit, I break from his suggestions about using certain words; Some of them are common enough that most readers equipped with a minor education and a television should be able to use them and understand them.
If you have any suggestions of additional words and phrases, or other methods you’ve been using to help along in this endeavor, please leave a comment on this page or e-mail me: piratesyar at gmail dot com.
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