words not to use

by Jody Bruner

Each of the words below is either negative or overly formal. They’re easy to eliminate, and doing so will give your final document a warmer, more upbeat tone.

1. Assist
In nearly every case, the word ‘help’ can be substituted. Of the two words, help strikes a more emotional chord. Also, it is the warmer, more conversational choice.

2. But
While it has its important uses, this word is quite negative, because everything that comes before it is negated, as in “You’ve done a great job on this project, but….” Try using ‘and’ instead.

3. Effort
As in, “Please make an effort to clean the rear of the building.” The word ‘effort’ implies hard work, so it has a negative connotation. Try avoiding it altogether.

4. Hopefully
This is a weak word. Getting rid of it will give your writing a more confident tone.

5. However
This negative word functions like ‘but’ – see above. Try to omit it altogether.

6. Must
This is quite a strong, negative word. In every case, ‘need to’ can be substituted without any loss in meaning. The word ‘need’ strikes a more positive emotional chord.

7. Not
Another negative word. You can easily get rid of it by saying what something is instead of what it isn’t, as in “This model is not available” vs. “This model is unavailable.”

8. Regret
Like ‘unfortunately’ below, regret can be quite negative.

9. Unfortunately
Because its presence means bad news will follow, unfortunately gives readers a sinking feeling. Show your regret by giving readers alternatives or stressing anything positive.

10. Utilize
‘Use’ means exactly the same thing and is by far the simpler, more conversational choice.

Can you think of other words that should go on this list? Share in the comments!

1 Comment
  1. We could all get rid of “that” – not necessary!