As an editor, I’ve encountered a lot of meaningless, overused words peppered throughout otherwise good manuscripts. And I’ve scratched my red Uniball Micro pen over those words.
Here are some words that are junk. They’re like weeds cropping up in a manicured lawn. Eradicate them, and you’ll improve your writing.
Possible exceptions include when these words are used in dialogue, although do so sparingly.
|just||Sheila just didn’t know what to do about it.
She was still nauseated, and not just from the bad food.
He watched her cry, just like his mother.
|You can keep it if it’s a noun that means “guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness.”
Used as an adverb, as in the examples, it’s junk. If you must keep it, better alternatives are simply, merely, or only.
Delete it and stop using it in your writing. For an in-depth discussion, see Are You Using the Word “Just” Too Much?
|even||Why did they even come?
Yet, even as the leaves fell, he persisted in hiking without a jacket.
Used as an adjective meaning “flat” or “on the same level,” you can keep it.
Used as an adverb meaning “still, yet”—delete it.
|ever||Wiley felt sillier than ever before.
How did she ever manage to do it?
|Used as an adverb to mean “at any time,” you should delete it.|
|very||Edward was very tall.
Hailey was caught in the very act of driving without a license.
|Used as an intensive or superlative, it’s overdone and unnecessary. Ditch it and use a stronger verb.|
Jake was a really big kid.
Alphonse really didn’t care for Muenster cheese.
Used as an adverb to mean “in reality, actually,” you can keep it, but use it sparingly.
Used as a superlative meaning “very, genuinely, truly, or indeed,” it’s a junk word—delete it.
Oh my. I’m guilty of using lots of justs and evens. This was a great reminder for me to stop it, even in my first draft. Thanks for sharing!
Once I learned about junk words, I had a lot of work to do to tidy up my writing.