Some words have been so abused they are meaningless now.

These words once provided emphasis to a sentence and now serve to dilute it.

Except in particular circumstances, you are best to cut these from your life:

  • just
  • really
  • very
  • actually
  • pretty

Without those words, your writing will be sharper, clearer, more authoritative and confident.

With those words, you sound weak and unsure.

For a while I fell into a trap of using “really just” in everything I wrote.

“I really just think it’s a worthwhile initiative.”

Notice how much weaker that sounds than this:

“I think it’s a worthwhile initiative.”

Take it a step further:

“It’s a worthwhile initiative.”

In life in general, we are best to stop qualifying our thoughts and speak declaratively.

When we use “very” to emphasize something, we end up doing the opposite.

“You look very beautiful.”

“You look beautiful.”

The second example sounds confident, the first desperate.

When we stop qualifying everything, we allow words to hold their true meaning.

Without “very,” beauty is powerful. With “very,” we diminish the meaning of beautiful.

Consider words you use often and whether you are weakening or strengthening sentences with them.

A rule of thumb is to look for words you can eliminate from a sentence without changing the meaning.

Posted by Stewart Burnett

Journalist, stutterer, rockhounder, painter.

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