75 of the Most Overused Words in Fiction - #writetip

As writers, we are all guilty of using repetitive, monotonous words and phrases in our novels. I didn’t realize how glaringly obvious they were until a few of my own editors and CPs pointed them out to me.

I would have comments such as: “Ah, you just used the word glare.  Try another word.” Or “I counted the word darkness used six times in the last two pages to describe the forest.  Can you try the words?”

So, I used Word’s find feature, and replaced a some of those pesky repeated words.

When you revise your manuscript, I suggest that you use the most specific word for your meaning, not the first word that comes to mind in your first or second (even third). Refer to this post to find alternatives for various commonly overused words in fiction. Keep a Thesaurus handy to find alternatives to words, besides the ones provided on your Word program. And I recommend rereading your work, because you can find a great deal of repetition can be avoided by just reviewing and additional editing. Try to find alternative words for the repeated offenders.

Trim your excess of overused words. Some words are specific enough, but they are so overused they are just plain boring. Zzzzzzz…

While it would be awkward to avoid these words all the time, you should take care to substitute more interesting words or verbs whenever appropriate. Get out your Thesaurus and find better, more vivid words to use!


about: approximately, nearly, almost, approaching, close to

absolutely: unconditionally, perfectly, completely, ideally, purely

activity: action, movement, operation, labor, exertion, enterprise, project, pursuit, endeavor, job, assignment, pastime, scheme, task

add: attach, affix, join, unite, append, increase, amplify

affect: adjust, influence, transform, moderate, incline, motivate, prompt

amazing: overwhelming, astonishing, startling, unex­pected, stunning, dazzling, remarkable

awesome: impressive, stupendous, fabulous, aston­ishing, outstanding

bad: defective, inadequate, poor, unsatisfactory, disagreeable, offensive, repul­sive, corrupt, wicked, naughty, harmful, injurious, unfavorable

basic: essential, necessary, indispensable, vital, funda­mental, elementary

beautiful: attractive, appeal­ing, alluring, exquisite, gor­geous, handsome, stunning

begin: commence, found, initi­ate, introduce, launch, origi­nate

better: preferable, superior, worthier

big: enormous, extensive, huge, immense, massive

boring: commonplace, monot­onous, tedious, tiresome

bring: accompany, cause, con­vey, create, conduct, deliver, produce

cause: origin, stimulus, inspi­ration, motive

certain: unquestionable, incontrovertible, unmistak­able, indubitable, assured, confident

change: alter, transform, vary, replace, diversify

choose: select, elect, nomi­nate, prefer, identify

decent: respectable, adequate, fair, suitable

definitely: unquestionably, clearly, precisely, positively, inescapably

easy: effortless, natural, com­fortable, undemanding, pleas­ant, relaxed

effective: powerful, successful

emphasize: underscore, fea­ture, accentuate

end: limit, boundary, finish, conclusion, finale, res­olution

energy: vitality, vigor, force, dynamism

enjoy: savor, relish, revel, benefit

entire: complete, inclusive, unbroken, integral

excellent: superior, remark­able, splendid, unsurpassed, superb, magnificent

exciting: thrilling, stirring, rousing, dramatic

far: distant, remote

fast: swift, quick, fleet, hasty, instant, accelerated

fill: occupy, suffuse, pervade, saturate, inflate, stock

finish: complete, conclude, cease, achieve, exhaust, deplete, consume

funny: comical, ludicrous, amusing, droll, entertaining, bizarre, unusual, uncommon

get: obtain, receive, acquire, procure, achieve

give: bestow, donate, supply, deliver, distribute, impart

go: proceed, progress, advance, move 

good: satisfactory, service­able, functional, competent, virtuous, striking

great: tremendous, superior, remarkable, eminent, profi­cient, expert

happy: pleased, joyous, elated, jubilant, cheerful, delighted

hard: arduous, formidable, complex, complicated, rigor­ous, harsh

help: assist, aid, support, sus­tain, serve

hurt: injure, harm, damage, wound, impair

important: significant, sub­stantial, weighty, meaningful, critical, vital, notable

interesting: absorbing, appealing, entertaining, fasci­nating, thought-provoking

job: task, work, business, undertaking, occupation, vocation, chore, duty, assign­ment

keep: retain, control, possess

kind: type, variety, sort, form

know: comprehend, under­stand, realize, perceive, dis­cern

like: (adj) similar, equivalent, parallel

like: (verb) enjoy, relish, appreciate

main: primary, foremost, dom­inant

make: build, construct, pro­duce, assemble, fashion, manufacture

mean: plan, intend, suggest, propose, indicate

more: supplementary, addi­tional, replenishment

new: recent, modern, current, novel

next: subsequently, thereafter, successively

nice: pleasant, satisfying, gra­cious, charming

old: aged, mature, experi­enced, used, worn, former, previous

open: unobstructed, accessi­ble

part: section, portion, seg­ment, detail, element, compo­nent

perfect: flawless, faultless, ideal, consummate

plan: scheme, design, system, plot

pleasant: agreeable, gratifying, refreshing, welcome

prove: demonstrate, confirm, validate, verify, corroborate

quick: brisk, prompt, respon­sive, rapid, nimble, hasty

really: truly, genuinely, extremely, undeniably

regular: standard, routine, customary, habitual

see: regard, behold, witness, gaze, realize, notice

MEDIUM: diminutive, miniature, minor, insignificant, slight, trivial

sometimes: occasionally, intermittently, sporadically, periodically

take: grasp, capture, choose, select, tolerate, endure

terrific: extraordinary, mag­nificent, marvelous

think/thought: conceive, imagine, pon­der, reflect, contemplate

try: attempt, endeavor, venture, test

use: employ, operate, utilize

very: unusually, extremely, deeply, exceedingly, profound­ly

large/big: bulky, hefty, enormous, sizable, obese, corpulent 

want: desire,crave, yearn, long




  1. Some of the most overused words are the basic ones - that, it, was, were, could, would.

    www.autocrit.com is useful for finding these repetitions and also where other words have been repeated too closely together.

  2. I always use the thesaurus to look for (other) words, but I never think about the important words--the words I most use.
    I feel like I need to print this and pin it to my wall!
    This is a reminder to all of use writers that details count!


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