This appears to be a popular topic among writers and I suddenly sort of wanted to just jump on this bandwagon. What I noticed in all the threads I’ve seen, is that the list is generally incomplete or entirely unexplained. This will be the dawn of yet another project. One in which I attempt to the explain why to each of these cuttable words and attempt to make it a complete list.
Amazing: This is one of those words which is used too easily since it is used too often in day to day life. Consider replacing this with her many amazing synonyms or consider not considering everything amazing. I recommend the latter.
Certainly: If the narrator or character who is speaking does not use this worthless word in their regular speech, cut it. If you aren’t trying to be ironic, certainly cut it. If the sentence makes sense without this word, cut it.
Definitely: If the narrator or character who is speaking does not use this worthless word in their regular speech, cut it. If you aren’t trying to be ironic, definitely cut it. If the sentence makes sense without this word, cut it.
Got: I noticed this one in my own writing. Whereas there are many cases where got is the correct word to use; there are more where got is definitely wrong. try using more descriptive language instead of got if you can.
However: This word is a filler, however, you might want to use it in some cases. Do not use this word to start or end a sentence but anywhere in the middle is generally alright. However, the only way you could use it with effect at the start of a sentence is in a fairly posh way. Use it when it means: in what way. “However did you not see this coming?”
Just: “Just” is just great if it is used morally right and as an adjective. “Just” is just awful if it is used as a substitute “simply” or a queer “quite”. Just, however, has a plethora of meanings. If it is used to convey: time, distance, preciseness or a possibility, it just may be the word you are looking for.
Like: “Like is not half bad. Most of its uses are actually keepable. There is, however, one which should be avoided at almost all cost. In metaphors, you want to be tough and bold like an eagle soaring through the sky. If you don’t, your metaphor becomes a simile which is a mere naming of similarity rather than a comparison. A metaphor is an eagle soaring through the sky, tough and bold.
Literally: Everything which is meant literal is usually clearly literal. Unless you are writing fantasy, no one is going to believe the clouds were marshmallows soaring through the sky. Also, heavily consider cutting this from dialogue unless the character who uses the word is under the age of twenty, it will make them literally sound less intelligent than they potentially should.
Names: Whereas names are useful tools in writing, you do not want to mention the name of a character every time they do or say something. He, She, They, The Apache Attack Helicopter and It are usually fine to replace a name with. Unless your narrator is omniscient you want to be most careful with how you place your names in your prose. If your MC’s mother is mentioned, they will not be mentioned by name. At least, no one I know calls their mother by their first name. Also, unless your character is impolite, you want to mention characters by their family name rather than their first name.
Maybe: Unless your narrator is insecure or something actually may be happening, cut this. It’s hesitant and therefore weak.
Of: The priest stepped off of the staircase which was outside of his church. In all three of these cases, “of” can be but and will enhance the sentences. The priest stepped off the staircase which was outside his church. In all three cases, “of” has been cut and has enhanced the sentences. Do not actively look for “of” but if it pops up in an inappropriate place and you notice it, remove it.
Perhaps: Unless your narrator is insecure or someone is posh and perhaps uses “Perhaps”, cut this. It’s hesitant and therefore weak.
Quite: Quite can be quite useful but also quite redundant. I love seeing a “quite” or two in dialogue but in prose can have quite a few meanings. It can mean completely; which is when it should be cut. it can mean really; which is when it should be cut and replaced with a stronger set of words. It can mean to a degree; which is when it generally can stay. And when it is combined with “A”, “Something” or “So”; don’t cut it either.
Really: Really? As a question in dialogue this can be amazing, in prose it can get really irritating if a writer continuously uses it instead of very. In actual truth and to a great degree, really can be used without a doubt. If you use it as very; Sorry, it has to be cut because it will only clutter your really beautiful prose.
Redundancies: While this is not a word you want to cut, you do want to look out for this. Resist the urge to explain the obvious to the reader, they will understand what you mean anyway. If you do explain everything you risk making a technical mistake which will be picked up and shared by some of your readers. Also, check every passage and paragraph for double descriptions of the same thing. It happens a lot. you really want to resist the urge to explain, they will understand what you mean.
Said (In every majestic form): In first person, this can often be removed and replaced with describing the action the speaking character is performing. Since no one actually stands completely still and speaks, this is a fine way of cutting all these unnecessary dialogue tags. The same counts for third person but it is advised to at least give one or two tags at the start of a conversation so the reader is certain of who is speaking. If said is invisible to the reader, why is it there?
Suddenly: Suddenly, the tension in your tense moment is gone. Suddenly, the reader looks up from the page and suddenly you notice a fire in your backyard consisting of your book and gasoline. Suddenly is a word which does the exact opposite to writing as its meaning. Suddenly takes away the suddenness of every action after it and should always be cut unless it is used in dialogue.
Sort of: “Sort of”, sort of indicates a hesitant prose. A hesitant prose is sort of a weak prose and you sort of don’t want that. Do use this in dialogue for insecure characters, it will add a load of depth.
Start: If this is used to start an action or movement, cut it unless the action or movement is interrupted. If something starts and is finished without a process, why would you bother telling your reader about the start? It is cluttering and slows down a read.If it is used in any other correct way, it can generally stay where it is, especially as a verb.
That: That is easy. That can often be replaced or removed. If a sentence still works without “That”, remove “That”. If you can’t remove it accordingly replace it with “Who” or “Which”. I can’t believe that it was this easy to fix that!
Then: Then was a curious one. It can, then, not always be cut. It sometimes shows up, but then which word doesn’t? I only tend to cut “then” when it is used in a listing manner. “I went to school, then to the mall, then to the jewellery store and then to jail for theft.” In the previous sentence, all cases of “then” can be cut and will enhance the sentence’s readability and message. If, however, a child is telling a story and it occurs in dialogue, it should never be cut. Cutting filler words for a certain character’s dialogue will decrease the believability and depth of a character. And yes, that is bad.
Things: All things apparently have a name. There is this majestic thing called Google, There is this majestic thing called a thesaurus and There is this majestic thing called a dictionary. All things must be named.
Though: This word is another filler. It is one of those words which you can just stick at the end of your sentence and make it seem much better. This is untrue. “Though” is a most lethal word which kills your prose even though you didn’t intend it too. The previous use and at the start of the sentence are the only acceptable uses I know of. Do not put this word at the end of your sentences whenever a contradiction occurs.
Thought, Think: In first person, this is always redundant; especially if the narrator isn’t a mind reader. Your character can make guesses at someone else’s thoughts but that doesn’t mean they need to mention the fact that they are thinking. I thought: “How did he set that thing on fire?” is always worse than just asking the question. Don’t even bother putting thoughts in Italics, it is only going to distract your reader when they see it on the page.
Up: You can stand without standing up. you can climb without climbing up. Etc. You don’t need any of this filler words in combination with things which head to the sky.
Very: This is a very beautiful little word. It has very little meanings and very little meaning as an adverb. If someone is very smart, call them brilliant, if someone is very beautiful, call them gorgeous and if someone is very stupid, call them very stupid because they don’t know the word dumb. If it is used as an adverb, replace it with a stronger and less passive adjective or verb.
Wonder: If you are not writing in third person, “wonder” has little use as a verb. If it is used as a miracle, do keep it. In first person or when the narrator questions something, wonder can often be substituted for “?”. “I wondered whether Chris Rox was crazy” becomes: “Was Chris Rox crazy?” While, if you are wondering, the answer is yes; The first sentence does not make the reader think as much as the second sentence. This is because wonder in first person generally takes away from dragging a reader into the story.
Keep in mind, the various words which have been listed are often purposely misused or overused in their appropriate explanations. This is meant as satire and irony. If you don’t think it is funny, that is just fine by me.