When I craft a blog post, I usually write stream-of-consciousness and then set it aside for a few days (or a few weeks) to steep.
When I return to edit the post, errors in judgment, syntax, and word choice leap off the page.
I start with the last sentence and read each sentence aloud, from the end of the post to the beginning. This method helps me…
- isolate awkwardly worded sentences that don’t contribute to the article
- note incorrectly used words and phrases that clutter the sentence
Today’s infographic helped me identify weak words I use in blog posts. The infographic recommends removing these words, but I don’t always do that.
Because blog posts are different breed of cat than, say, an article published in a magazine or newspaper. Blog posts are meant to sound conversational, and the occasional “really” or “very” is acceptable.
However, I don’t want weak words to creep into multiple sentences, so I keep this list on hand when editing.
11 common weak words and phrases
(Some are from the infographic, below, and others are my additions):
Really / Actually – These “crutch” words can almost always be eliminated without changing the impact of the sentence. In fact, getting rid of them will “actually” make your sentence stronger.
Very – A useless, throwaway word.
Things / Stuff – Replace with a specific word such as tool, point, statement, factor, quality, detail.
I feel / I think / I believe – If you say it, we know you think it.
Was / is / are / am – There are two schools of thought about using “to be” verb forms. One school says to axe “to be” from your writing, no matter what.
This is nearly impossible, since “to be” is the most commonly-used verb form in the English language. My “school” says: be aware of how often you use “to be” and replace the passive verb form with active voice whenever possible.
Replace, “The touchdown pass was thrown by Russell Wilson.”
With, “Russell Wilson threw the touchdown pass.”
That – My bugaboo. When I wrote my first book, I searched for “that” and discovered I’d used it hundreds of times.
I read each sentence and asked, “Does the sentence make sense without ‘that?”
If it did, I axed “that.”
Many / often – How many is “many”? How often is “often”?
Literally – When we use “literally,” we usually mean “figuratively.”
Amazing / Awesome / Absolutely – I hear these words in podcasts and webinars when the host or guest is hyping a product or service. I don’t see them as often in blog posts. Even though the words are absolutely amazing and awesome, they’re overused and have lost their impact.
Redundancies – end result, gather together, each one, advance warning, local resident, added bonus, completely unique, postpone until later, true facts, mix together, basic fundamentals, unintentional mistake, cancel out, drop down, new beginning, old adage… and my favorite: overused cliché.
Begin to – “I’m beginning to write my blog post.” Replace with, “I’m writing my blog post.”
Exclamation points – I know the exclamation point is punctuation and not a word. But this little fellow is used ad nauseum to artificially inflate the emotion of sentences in blog posts, social updates and e-mails. In Word, do a “find and replace,” and replace every exclamation mark with a period. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a period suffices.
Free Blog Checklist
What weak words bug you?
Please share words and phrases you struggle with or see in others’ writing.