Skill 4.4: Worst Words Ever–Omit Them!

Signs of a Novice (looked, saw, got, had, was, and numbers)

These are a few overused verbs. They mark you as an inexperienced writer. Here’s why you don’t need them.

Example: Jimmy looked at the post-party park and saw popped balloons, squashed paper cups, empty chip bags and dropped hot dogs.

If I’m in Jimmy’s POV—I know he’s the one describing what he sees. Don’t tell me what someone “saw”—show, don’t tell. Same for looked.

Example: Trash covered the park in a circular area. The epicenter of the explosion fanned out, equidistantly, from the gazebo, draped with broken streamers of yellow and blue. Jimmy ripped a garbage bag from the roll and reached for the first bit of post-party trash. He moved from popped balloons to squashed paper cups to empty chip bags to grass-covered hot dogs.

Words to avoid:

  • Avoid “looked” and “saw”—there are times you need it. Alice peered into the rabbit hole. But do not say someone “looked” at this and “saw” that. Just state what is seen. Instead of Jimmy watched Sue approach. Sue approached, lips locked in a fake clown-like smile.
  • Avoid “had” and “got”—“had” is the far past marker and should be used sparingly when needed; there is always a better word than got—found, obtained, received. Use a thesaurus.
  • Avoid “very”—very diminishes your writing. It’s cliché and overused. Avoid adverbs altogether, but if you need a superlative, use a thesaurus: exceedingly, obnoxiously, etc.
  • Avoid numbers—numbers distract the reader. The job of a writer is to be clever in relating a tale. Instead of time markers (okay if a bomb is about to blow, and it’s a count down)—use the sun either rising, at its zenith or setting. Use the moon, use a candle burning down, be creative. Here and there, numbers are fine, but if overused, they are down right annoying. Height: average height, tall, short, stubby, compact—there are many ways to describe the body without giving feet and inches. You get the idea.

Go to Skill 4.5: Show Don’t Tell




  1. hinice sqtgmz :-)

  2. hellonice hvpwlr :-)

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