How Do I Write Without Using The Most Common Words?

Being a creative writer can be a lot of fun. Whether you're writing novels, short stories, fan fiction, or even poetry, you can create worlds. Unfortunately, being a creative writer can also be really challenging. It's not just difficult to imagine new things all the time—coming up with new and interesting ways to say things is also part of the challenge.

There are some words in creative writing that are terribly overused and common. Luckily, a good dictionary and thesaurus can work wonders on strengthening your writing.

So, we've rounded up some of the words writers most often use over and over. We're not saying you should never use these words, but there are more interesting alternatives you might want to consider next time you sit down to write.

said

Writing strong dialogue can be difficult. Not only is it hard to write as people talk, it's hard to incorporate dialogue naturally into a narrative.

Writers typically default to the straightforward verb said to indicate dialogue. This is not always a problem; readers tend to skim over the word without noticing its overuse. However, said isn't always the only (or best) word you can use. For example:

He said, "She is really smart."

She said, "No, she is not."

He said, "Yes, she is."

Zzzz … snoozefest.

There are lots of good alternatives for said to make dialogue a lot more dynamic and engaging. For example, you could substitute said with a verb like:

Check out that same dialogue (from above) with our new words:

He asserted, "She is really smart."

She retorted, "No, she is not."

He concluded, "Yes, she is."

OK, still not the most exciting dialogue ever, but you get the point.

moved

Another verb that can be quickly overused in creative writing is moved.

It's the most bread-and-butter word to express that a character is doing some kind of action. But, like said, it can get really boring. Not only that, it's not as descriptive as some alternative verbs, such as:

The word moved can serve an important purpose, but if you find yourself using it too many times, try one of these instead.

amazing

Amazing is an amazing word. And it's  so amazing how many amazing uses it has.

Is your head spinning yet? Do you really understand what we're trying to say?

Amazing has the distinction of being not only an overused word in creative writing, but also in daily life.

While amazing initially referred to something that causes astonishment or wonderment, now it is used to refer to anything a notch up from "just OK."

If you find yourself reaching for this adjective, try to drill down and really think about what you're trying to express. Some alternatives are:

very

Very is a modifier that we use all the time in daily life, no problem-o. On the page, though, very is kind of flat. It's an adverb that's used for emphasis, but if it's overused it loses some of its punch.

Instead of using very a hundred million times in your creative writing (and definitely don't use it more than once in a row, like "this is very, very, very boring"), there are tons of other alternatives you can use for emphasis. Some of our favorites adverbs are:

That said, sometimes it's enough to let the narrative speak for itself. If you're tempted to use a modifier for emphasis, go back over the sentence and ask yourself if it's truly necessary. Sometimes a light touch, like very, can actually be best.

love

Love is a wonderful thing. We love love. Who doesn't?

But love is a word whose meaning is notoriously hard to pin down. When you're writing about feelings of great affection, romantic or otherwise, love might seem like an obvious word to use. But we recommend using the word love sparingly, like nutmeg. Or salt.

Love can be either a noun or a verb. If you're using love as a noun, such as "I felt a strong feeling of love," consider some of the following alternatives:

If you're using love as a verb, as in "I love you," we recommend some of these alternatives:

There's nothing wrong with the classic love, but consider some of these options next time you put pen to paper.

look

Look is another basic verb that is often overused, similar to said and moved. In boring writing, characters are always just looking, whether at objects or each other.

But there are so many more exciting ways to describe someone experiencing something via sight.

For example, there are verbs like:

thing

Ah, thing. We've saved the worst for last. No offense to The Thing, thing is like a lead balloon in the middle of a story.

We have an entire thesaurus (and dictionary of course) full of thousands of vibrant, specific, interesting words to replace the imprecise, overworked noun thing.

Next time you find yourself describing something as a thing, take another pass at it. Dig in deep and use a word that really conveys what you're talking about. Consider if the thing you're referring to is an emotion, a particular object, or an idea and, then, name it.

The thesaurus is your friend. Don't hesitate to pull it up and take a look around to find the bon mot, the just-right word or expression, to take the place of thing.

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