Words you never need in a sentence

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about words you never need in a sentence….

When I was in university, I remember my English 100 teacher introducing us to The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. She told us it was to be our guide book or Bible.

The lesson that stayed with me? Never use the phrase the fact that because it is completely unnecessary. Here is an example: “It seemed wiser not to go to work because of the fact that the boss had discovered the company picnic money was missing.”

The simplicity of the lesson blew my mind and has stayed with me for going on 40 years now. And perhaps it is why a recent headline in the Write Life blog post drew my attention so quickly. It said: “5 words you almost never need in a sentence.”

Eager to learn which five words this writer had identified as unnecessary (I assumed “actually” would be one of them), I clicked. The words were:

  • different
  • that
  • currently
  • certain, specific or particular
  • very, really totally — any emphasizing adverb

I totally agreed with these suggestions and I encourage you to strike them from your vocabulary as well. As the writer of the post put it: “They’re the words you almost never need in a sentence. They occupy space, trip tongues and take readers down a long, winding path when a short, straight one would do.”

And here are some other words you might want to consider putting your “banned” list as well: actually, just, rather, quite, somewhat, thing(s), so, literally (which is usually used incorrectly, in any case).

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