Every writer has them. Those words, phrases or grammatical mistakes that drive us crazy.
The three words I list below are perfectly acceptable for many people. They don’t break any grammar rules. But over my years as a professional writer, I work daily to avoid using these words. In my opinion, choosing alternative constructions can improve your writing by making it more descriptive, more clear and more direct.
Don’t get me started
“Get” is a lazy word. In fact, in my high school English classes, we weren’t allowed to use it. Its presence in our essays was a grammatical deduction. I quickly learned my lesson–and in fact jumped on the anti-get train. Most of the time, you can find a more descriptive word, rather than “get.”
DON’T: “When young children get tired, they get cranky.”
DO: “When young children are tired, they become cranky.”
This is another one
Another lesson from high school English, “this” should always be followed by a noun. Without a noun, the reference of what you’re talking about may be unclear.
DON’T: “My aunt sent me a birthday card. This meant a lot to me.”
DO: “My aunt sent me a birthday card. Her thoughtfulness meant a lot to me.” (Or perhaps the message inside the card meant a lot to you. Without a description, I don’t know what was important to you.)
Worst of all
My dislike of “of” is a legacy from my work in academia. Most writers work to be concise and direct. However, when people are trying to be more formal, they sometimes throw in “of” unnecessarily. “Of” leads to wordiness, and there’s nothing unprofessional with being concise and direct.
DON’T: “The method of instruction that students learn the process of adding 2+2.”
DO: “The instruction method ensures that students learn how to add 2+2.”
Those are mine. What are yours?