You know what I mean… those little go-to words that show up in your writing, especially when you first sit down to puke up ideas onto the screen, i.e., your first draft. No worries. Let them show up. Simply focus on getting your ideas out and worry about form and function later.

Done? Time to polish your blog, article, presentation, book, webpage, etc. to improve the flow of your writing, i.e., readability. First, use your writing software’s find/search feature to locate each of these lifeless go-to words and either:

  1. delete the loser, or
  2. rewrite the sentence to eliminate the loser.

Your goal? To create powerful and compelling prose that enchants your reader and holds her/his interest.

#1. That

Company president Henry Compton let employees know that vacations could be curtailed if current staffing issues aren’t rectified soon. He recently told workers that they could help the situation by encouraging family to apply for the open positions, ignoring critics saying that nepotism can cause decreased morale and commitment from employees that are not related to employers.

That shows up because you (unconsciously) believe your reader won’t find the important information within a sentence without that pointing to the central idea. Guess what? Readers aren’t that stupid. So, if that can be eliminated without affecting the crux of your message, do it.

Company president Henry Compton let employees know vacations could be curtailed if current staffing issues aren’t rectified soon. He recently told workers they could help the situation by encouraging family to apply for the open positions, ignoring critics saying nepotism can cause decreased morale and commitment from employees not related to employers.

#2. Just

Marianne just couldn’t wait any longer. Traveling with George was difficult, but today she’d just had enough. Time to lay it all out and just tell him she didn’t want to be with him anymore.

Just unknowingly slides into your writing because you want to add emphasis to a thought but not specificity, i.e., you’re going for meaningful but vague. Acceptable at the first-draft stage, but now readability is the goal. The process is simple: Search for just. Find just. Delete just.

Marianne couldn’t wait any longer. Traveling with George was difficult, but today she’d had enough. Time to lay it all out and tell him she didn’t want to be with him anymore.

#3. It

Edward built a formidable castle within a day’s ride from London, hoping to keep the Scots at bay. Measuring 40 feet in height and covering 12 acres, it baffled everyone. All except Malcolm, who told everyone it was a terrible waste of money.

Nebulous, non-descriptive, and boring, it works great as a placeholder for your first draft. However, this time through, you need to replace it with something more substantial to ensure your reader (1) understands the visual picture you’re painting and (2) stays interested enough to continue reading.

Edward built a formidable castle within a day’s ride from London, hoping to keep the Scots at bay. Measuring 40 feet in height and covering 12 acres, the stronghold baffled everyone. All except Malcolm, who told everyone the fortress was a terrible waste of money.

#4. Of

Robert Brooks is the nemesis of Bobbie Thomas. The owner of the Spencer Oil team refused to hire her this year for the position of crew chief. According to Brooks, as of now, no woman has proven herself to have the knowledge, experience, and “balls” necessary to secure such an important position on a NASCAR team. He’s aware of her time in sprint car racing but is tired of being lectured by the media for his lack of diversity.

For such a tiny word, of creates huge readability issues. This offender sneaks into your writing because you’re unsure about what you’re trying to say and where you’re wanting to go with your thoughts. But that’s what first drafts are for. Now, you know what you’re going for, so time to rewrite each weak of into something clear and direct.

Robert Brooks is Bobbie Thomas’ nemesis. The Spencer Oil team owner refused to hire her this year as crew chief. According to Brooks, no woman has proven herself to have the knowledge, experience, and “balls” necessary to secure such an important position on a NASCAR team. He knows about her time in sprint car racing but refuses to let the media lecture him about diversity.

Today’s challenge

To create powerful and compelling prose that enchants your reader and holds her/his interest. Use your writing software’s find/search feature to locate each of these lifeless go-to words and either delete the loser or rewrite the sentence to eliminate the loser.

Tree Icon

Join The Seedlings!

Join today and receive weekly invitations to our FREE writers group, handouts, presentations, and other free resources to help you grow in your craft.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.