Overtime humans as a species have become significantly pickier as well as constantly becoming busier. They no longer have the time or desire to read second grade content. Due to this, the shortening attention span of a human is approaching a mere 8 seconds.
This includes both adults and children, so no matter who your content is designed for, you don’t have a lot of time to convince them to continue reading what you have to say. The rapidly dropping attention span means that you must now write more engaging and effective content that actually answers the questions of your readers.
In such cut throat times, even one bad sentence is enough to make readers click away from your website. This means that every single word you choose must have a particular purpose and you need to try to limit the words that aren’t actually helping improve your content. Words that have no purpose and stray from your central point will usually result in your readers losing all interest.
You will need to ensure your work has a strict limit on fluff as well as have a good think about your key target audience and their demographics. For example; you wouldn’t use the same type of words in your content if you were addressing lawyers as you would school aged children.
Different types of groups have different appeals to writing style, so you will need to understand exactly who you are targeting your content towards.
You should note here that you will probably have to write more than one draft when it comes to content. Your first draft may not be the best, but it acts as a base for more refined work to come.
As mentioned before, every word you write is important. Unfortunately with the rise of the internet generation, basic skills such as grammar and using the correct words have suffered a significant blow. It usually goes back to simple mistakes such as writing “alot” instead of “a lot” or something similar.
As well as grammar, there are several words that completely derail your content and it undoes all of the hard work you have put in. These words make you sound lazy and make your work a lot less effective.
If you have a feeling you may be using some ineffective words, never fear! This article will help you identify bad words you are using that make your work sound bland and ineffective.
Here we will also provide suggestions for alternatives to make your work more credible and hopefully keep readers reading for longer.
Sometimes, if you are in a rush to get your ideas out, you don’t always use the best words. A sprinkling of bad words won’t do too much harm to your work but they will become a problem when used excessively.
So, without further ado, let’s identify those redundant words!
1. Better and almost
These words tend to symbolise vagueness and this results in your readers not having a clear cut view on what you are trying to say. Most people don’t want to sound vague when they are writing content, they want to sound distinct, precise and to the point! ‘Better’ and ‘almost’ tend to act as approximations that could sometimes lead the reader to doubt your content.
Obviously, ‘better’ and ‘almost’ are common words so it can be difficult to cut all of these words out from your content. Therefore, you should be looking where the word is least effective and remove it. Try not to use these words too excessively, every now and again is okay.
If you are finding it difficult to think of some alternatives, then giving your readers information and or data is a good way to go. So instead of saying one thing is ‘better’ than the other, you could provide facts that show the reader why you think this.
Readers will be making their own opinion while reading your work, therefore giving them facts and data instead of stating your opinion will make your work more credible and easy to read. Anyone who has been to university will understand the importance of supporting your work.
Most of the assignments you would have handed in probably included a minimum amount of sources. It is simply not enough to state your opinion; you will need credible sources to help construct your argument.
2. Just and literally
People tend to use ‘just’ a fair bit in their work. It is a good filler word to use if you aren’t able to think of anything else. But that is all it is, a filler word isn’t adding anything to your work.
It means that your readers have to go through more words to get to the good part. Like the word ‘that’, I find you can usually deleted ‘just’ from your sentence and it would still make sense. If you can do this with a sentence, it is not the sign of an effective word.
So for example a sentence with ‘just’ in it could read:
“I just couldn’t make it to my appointment in time.”
And without ‘just’…
“I couldn’t make it to my appointment in time.”
As you can see the sentence still makes complete sense reading it without the ‘just’. It means that readers can get to the point faster and with a dwindling human attention span, this is certainly something you have to do.
‘Literally’ is another one of many unnecessarily overused words. When most people write ‘literally’ they probably mean ‘figuratively’. As well as ‘just’, ‘literally’ doesn’t add much substance to your argument.
‘Literally’ is used when clarifying a point, but if you are already using facts and data to support what you are saying then why do you need to clarify even further. ‘Literally’ can be okay if you are trying to be over dramatic to hone in your point, or if you are talking about a non-serious topic, other than that, try to steer clear.
3. Stuff and things
These words are usually thrown in when you don’t have a good alternate word for the situation. These words don’t give any true meaning and are incredibly cryptic. Readers don’t know what ‘stuff’ or ‘things’ you are talking about. These words could be useful in a title for your content because it makes readers want to find out, but in your content, that’s a no-no!
Some writers want to use these words when they are trying to provide a more relaxed tone to their readers. This is where knowing and understanding your audience is crucial. If they are teenagers and you don’t think they will respond to content that is impersonal, then ‘stuff’ and ‘things’ MAY be an option.
However, if you are writing to business professionals, sounding informal to the extent of using ‘stuff’ and ‘things’ is not a positive tactic. Sounding relatable can create more connections with your readers, but you should try to avoid ‘stuff’ and ‘things’.
You should endeavour to replace these words with more expressive terms. This will ensure your content is more accurate and to the point. Your readers don’t want to waddle through paragraphs and paragraphs of fluff until they find the true meaning of your content.
You here and see the word ‘amazing’ everywhere you go. This has resulted in the word being over used and therefore lost its meaning. Before you use the word ‘amazing’ in your content, stop and have a think about if the situation you are describing is truly ‘amazing’.
Remember, even if something good happened, it doesn’t mean it was ‘amazing’. People already seem to get sick of this word and it has now become the new normal, losing its impact. Therefore it is beneficial to think of words more accurate to the situation.
So for example, riding the bus wasn’t ‘amazing’, it was probably ‘beneficial’ in getting you to where you needed to go.
Since the word has now lost its true shine, it is best to only use ‘amazing’ when you truly mean it and are genuinely amazed at something. If you find you are having difficulty thinking of other more effective words yourself, have a look at Digital Journal’s 20 words you can use instead of ‘amazing’!
Ah, ‘went’. There are so many superior words that could be used in its place and that’s the one you choose. Like all the above words, ‘went’ is incredibly vague and lacks in descriptive value.
‘Went’ should always be used sparingly or even not at all. It doesn’t take much effort to think of a better word for your content than ‘went’. This word doesn’t add anything to what you are saying and in a time where every word is precious in keeping readers on your content, you don’t have the luxury of wasting a word on ‘went’.
Have a think about this sentence:
“I went to work today”. How boring is that! It doesn’t invite any questions or further thinking. This sentence essentially shuts the thought process down.
Maybe instead you could say, “I caught the train to work today.” This is more intriguing and makes the reader think more. This sentence helps lead on to further sentences where you explain why you caught the train or how the train trip was, etc.
‘Went’ doesn’t add any punch or spice to your content and it has the potential to turn a bad sentence even worse.
6. Really and very
Every once in a while ‘really’ and ‘very’ are fine. However, it is when these words are used excessively then there is a problem.
Often, ‘really’ and ‘very’ tend to be used a crutches to help get you through your content and reach the amount of words you wanted. But is this what you want your readers to do – read through your content only because they have to. You want to create engaging content the reader wants to keep reading and content that makes them sad when they have finished.
You will find ‘really’ and ‘very’ don’t actually add any value to your content and like ‘went’ there are a great deal of useful alternatives.
Instead of saying, “These replacement words are very good.”
You could say, “These replacements words are excellent!”
You need to pay a lot more attention to the type of words you are choosing for you content. Most people don’t even realise when they are writing these bland and ineffective words. It’s understandable that it can impact the flow of your writing when you are stopping and trying to think of a more useful word.
Therefore, it could be beneficial for you to simply write like you would normally and once you have finished your content, use the ‘find’ tool to go through and look at the ineffective words you have used and try to think of words for its replacement.
Changing a couple of words around may seem pointless, but it will actually add a lot more substance to your work. As well as this, it will provide your content with clear direction and allow for readers to digest your work easier. When readers find it easy to read your content, they are likely to stay on your website for longer and potentially even read other pieces of your work.
Your word choice isn’t the only important aspect, your grammar and spelling is also imperative. Would you trust a business that doesn’t pay enough attention in their own work to find a typo or grammatical error? Probably not! Typos and grammatical errors can be difficult to pick up; this is why it is important to always proof read your work.
Kieran is the Social Media Manager and SEO Expert at SEO Shark. He is an expert in Social Media, link building, PPC and of course SEO. In his time off work Kieran enjoys reading and playing rugby, as well as following all kinds of sports! You can read some more of his articles here.