Archive: March 10th, 2008

MM: Overused Vocabulary


One of the most basic tips for good writing: Don’t over-use the same word and don’t use hackneyed phrases that have been used so much they become cliche.

I notice this the most in my “casual” writing, things like e-mails to friends, comments on blogs, and the like. One of these nights I really need to pull out my thesaurus and remind myself of some other, better, lesser-used superlatives like “striking,” “keen,” “awesome,” “meritorious” or “smashing.” You know, to be able to write something a little snazzier than “It’s so pretty!” when I see a beautiful hand-knit by a friend.

The problem is that words like “pretty” and “nice” have been so overused that any strength they originally had has been diluted, leaving them insipid, weak shadows of their former selves . . . but, isn’t that a sad thing to think about any word? Can’t you just picture them, sitting in their recliners, their canes and walkers nearby, reminiscing about the days when they were the words to use? The strong, active, cut-to-the-chase words that everyone wanted to voice?

“I wasn’t always just ‘Nice,’ you know, I used to mean all sorts of things! Wanton. Coy. Punctilious. Well-bred. Now I’m just a worn-out old catch-phrase.”

When, no doubt, the word “Gay” says, “You think you’ve got problems? I used to mean happy and merry, and now I’m a political land-mine. Woo hoo. Hurray for me. I remember when I was just a nice word . . . oh, sorry, buddy,” as the word “Nice” winces, “I didn’t mean you.”

All while “Like” is sitting in the corner, twitching . . .

(Inspired by an old post on my knitting blog.)