Replace These Words In Your Writing


Writing is hard, and weird, and in the scheme of human existence pretty new. We’ve been talking for maybe half a million years, writing for just about 5,000. So sometimes we write stuff that we’d never say aloud. We use a complicated or “smart-sounding” word when a simpler word would work better. New York Times editor Dan Saltzstein lists some great examples on Twitter. They pop up in news media, but also in “business speak.” If you’re trying to write effectively, watch out for these:

Twitter users suggest many more:

We’d like to add:

  • Name & dub

  • Turn & render

  • Big & massive

  • Maybe & perhaps

These aren’t rules, of course; they’re just suggestions, language is fluid, yadda yadda. Almost all the “lesser” words above have good uses. Save them for those uses. To leverage something is specifically to “use it to its maximum advantage.” Something sprawling is “spreading out over a large area in an untidy or irregular way.” Suits are bespoke, and medieval knights get slain. OK, you’ve been waiting to add your own—go for it.


  • “Issue” instead of “problem”;
    “Progress” (your business) instead of “expand”;
    “Community” instead of “neighbourhood”
    “Cliician or physician or health care professional” instead of “doctor” or specifying a profession such as a “nurse or a physiotherapist or a dentist, etc.”

    I get annoyed when people use words which either negate or lessen the seveity of something. I also get annoyed by the use of words which obfuscate the truth!

    People who use their smart ‘phones to get onto social media and don’t check the spelling of Auto-suggest words:

    Their, there, they’re;
    To, too, two;
    Weather, whether, wether (sheep);

    Unfortunately, there are many causes of the devolution of the English language but there are two main ones:

    Lack of education and the enforcement of correct use, and the necessity of keeping up with everything happening on social media. I think it’s bad manners to not take the time to check your writing before hitting “Post“.

  • I work in the education sector and I hate the word ‘learnings’. It’s so cumbersome in a sentence – always sounds to me like a word made up by a 6 year old.

  • There are times when it’s appropriate to use the synonyms. A good example is open and launch. You might open a shop but you’d launch a new line of products.

    Some of the other examples like big and massive have slightly different meanings. Massive implies something “bigger than big”. So if someone says it’s a big cow it might be a little larger than average, if they say it’s massive then it’s this one:

    And finally, some of them are perfectly fine to use either. Maybe and perhaps is a good example. Neither word is complicated, they both mean basically the same thing.

    • Oh and I meant to add a lot of the others are colloquialisms like “Baby bump”, “the white stuff” or “tuck into”. You’d use them when you were trying to be more informal or light hearted. Probably half the examples in the article are perfectly valid for one reason or another.

  • Nick, I appreciated (or must I say ‘liked’?) your article (or must I say ‘piece’?), but note that you somewhat missed the opportunity (or must is say ‘chance’?) to acknowledge (or must I say ‘allow’), or at least emphasise (or must I say ‘stress’?) that writing has a multiplicity (or must I say ‘variety’?) of purposes (or must I say ‘aims’?) and aims (or mustn’t I repeat myself?), including flow, ambience, intellectual stimulation and stretching, frivolity, singularity, and a myriad of other worthy, at times critical, objectives.

    At times, simplicity is essential, at others it is preferable, while at others it contributes to the dumbing-down of writer and reader. An embarrassment of riches with our English language synonyms and near-equivalents is to be valued, as well as (or should I say ‘and’?) knowledge of them and skill in their utilisation (or must I say ‘use’?) encouraged wherever appropriate.

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