Writing tip: keep a list of "wasteful words" #blogchat

clutter (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Write compelling words that promote action. If you're writing online, it probably isn't just because you want to read it. Study impactful bloggers. See how they use words. Learn from them.

Here's a trick that has helped me craft better blog posts. I keep a list of wasteful words. They are enemies of clarity.

What is a wasteful word?

This is my list of wasteful words.
What are yours?

A word that clouds meaning or takes up space. Word clutter makes you hard to read.

My list of wasteful words

  • There are / There is
  • It is
  • very * extremely * really * actual
  • Given the fact * in fact * the fact is that
  • had a * have a * had an * have an * have on * had on
  • on how to
  • of the
  • say that * think that
  • successfully
  • along 
  • has 
  • ones 
  • specifically 
  • again * available
  • with regard to * with respect to * in reference to * in connection with * for the purpose of
  • advance * together * basic * close * end * free * past
  • you need to
  • a lot

Find and eliminate

If you press Ctrl + F (on a PC) or Command + F (Mac) you can find and remove these words. Most offending words take up space, clouding your point. 

Create a Word clutter collection

Add your own crutch words to your list. (Mine is “a lot.”) If you put them in your computer, save time by copying and pasting the words in the find box.

Teach powerful writing and blogging

If you teach writing, keep a word list or add to the list throughout the year. Teach students (especially bloggers) to search for and remove these words as part of writing.

4 Times I always clear word clutter

  1. Before I turn anything in to my editor. All chapters or articles get searched for every word. For frequent words, save time and turn on the advanced search feature and check “match exact word.”
  2. “Epic Blog posts” – If it takes longer than 30 minutes to write, I'm going to check it. If a post starts going viral, I'll recheck it for clutter words.
  3. When I'm trying to communicate simply. Less clutter words, more meaning. I've used this in important emails and letters.
  4. This post. I am afraid of using these words and harming my thesis here. I've already searched three times! ;-)
Clutter words are a problem for me. I have to intentionally take them out.
What are your offensive words? Please share in the comments.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere