In a survey conducted by Time Magazine in 2013, people were asked to vote on the most overused words, the top 3 were: Twerk, Selfie and Passion.

If I were asked to come up with a perfect word, there would probably be a different word every day, but one of them would definitely be ‘serendipity’, which means coming across something good very unexpectedly.  However, there are other words I’m not so fond of: I.M.O. ‘Nice’ is overused and so is ‘very’, even though they didn't feature in the survey.

It is so easy to overuse the word ‘very’:  ‘Very hot’, ‘very small’, ‘very big’ and all the rest.

As a writer I need to go right ahead, putting down words as they flow, and then go back and edit, often adding phrases, but almost as often removing words. Also, I often come up with substitutes: Mark Twain, the famous American writer, advised writers to put ‘damn’ every time you could use ‘very’. He claimed that the editors would remove the ‘damns and the writing would be all the better for it.  Of course, to be able to do this, you need to expand your vocabulary.

Can you find other words (apart from damn) to substitute for the crossed out words in the following sentences?

Try the exercise.

  1. The water was very hot.

  2. He was very scared.

  3. His behaviour was very bad.

  4. The building was very old.

  5. He was very quiet.

  6. The house was very large.

  7. He was very clever.

  8. The little girl had on a very clean apron.

  9. The lights were very bright.>

  10. The man was very worried.

If you can think of any overused words, you can share your ideas in the comments.


You can see the full list of Time Magazine's most overused words of 2013 on the Have Fun With English site.