Perhaps it was my foray into Twitter and Google+ this past year, but I’ve found myself simultaneously overjoyed by the opportunities and connections, and also, now, a bit weary of repetition. Some of the same themes, ideas, and mantras crept up time and again, each time undermining their efficacy and usefulness. In particular, given the limitation of 140-characters (a typical tweet), I find that people keep using the same (awesome!) words (epic!) over (insane!) and (sweet!) over again (cue: Top Ten Things You Must Do To Become Cooler Than You Are Now).

Anyone else tired? Maybe, of course, I just need to shake it up and start following different threads. But for now, I’ll rant.

Here’s a list of what I think are the most over-used words from the past year. These aren’t the 100 most common words in the English language (words like “the,” “and” or “if”) — these are words that have crept into common lexicon and subsequently eroded their usefulness. Without further ado, I bring to you the list of most over-used words of 2011 (I, too, am guilty of these–please note locations where I’ve self-edited said words out of this post!). 

Words (and phrases) to eliminate from our vocabulary

Epic. Really. Epic? Is it really epic? Seriously. I’m sure. I’m certain that your blog post, or personal photograph, or even your dinner meal was epic. Or how about this: it definitely wasn’t, and I don’t care. Epic is for things like wire-walking. Or doing an entire iron man while pulling, pushing, and running with your disabled son. Or a dog jumping out a plane because of his sheer love and trust of humans, not because it’s a few words on another internet page (see this rant on photography, with a photo of the dog about halfway down). 

Amazing. To cause amazement. To induce a state of surprise and wonder. Really, see micro-rant from “epic,” above. The cosmos are amazing. The discovery of a helio-centric universe and it’s subsequent explanation and rebuttals by the church is pretty amazing. The internet is amazing. Physics and mathematics from the 16th century, aka Galileo, is quite amazing. The word debuted in 1530, so I’m pretty fairly sure Galileo (circa 1564) might have used the word once or twice. (I have included the original drafts’ use of “pretty,” which is a word I also think is overused–see below, and slap me on the wrist for that.)

Super. This one just makes you sound like you’re somewhere between the ages of twelve and eighteen, and no older. I’ve used it handfuls of times this year already, to dismissive and skeptical looks. Trust me, stop using this word. Like, that’s super! Yeah. Not so good.

Freaking.  A filler word used to make other words seem even more important, but usually has the opposite effect. That’s pretty freaking cool.

Outstanding. I’m a nice person. But most things aren’t outstanding. Things are well done. Good. In progress. Great. Incomplete. Very well researched. Time-intensive. Find another word that doesn’t erode the validity of this one.

Awesome. Just see “epic” and “amazing” above.

Like. Makes you sound … like… a valley girl. Want to know how to eliminate it from your speech? Videotape yourself while you give a presentation. Or just videotape yourself and try talking about anything. Have a friend count on their hand the number of times you use this word in conversation with them.  If you don’t mind them doing so, have them slap you each time. It’s a nervous tic, a habit, a lazy habit of speech that can be eliminated. Bring it to the front of your consciousness. Then, try to speak without using the word going forward.

Totally. What does this word even mean? I get the vague sense that it should mean complete, or full, or in total agreement. We use it to offer concurrence or acceptance of what someone else is saying, and we use it to prod someone to keep speaking (or worse, to finish speaking). What if you smiled and nodded instead? If you used your body language instead of flippant words to make a point?

Word. This should have died years ago.

Literally. If it’s not literal, don’t use it.

Seriously. Right?

“See what I’m saying” which is equally interchangeable with “Know what I mean?”  (see below). These phrases bubble up like nervous chatter and become filler phrases that indicate that you’re not sure if someone is listening to you.

“Know what I mean?” Equally interchangeable with, “You know?” as a question inserted at every breath point in a sentence, ending in a lilt, you know?, that kind of, like, you know?, drives the other person bat-shit crazy.

Ending anything with questions. For the love of God. If you’re going to say something, have the courage to believe in it. Say it with purpose. Intention. Belief. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? At worst case, you could be wrong, and then you can issue a corrective statement. … right?

Bold. “It’s a bold new century.” Is it really now? Are you sure? Because I think it’s just a new century. We’re talking a lot of bold nonsense. Let’s get real.

Passion(ate). Your passion could eat itself off the page and sell you a job. In fact, I think you’re so passionate, I’m certain you’ve said it six different times in your resume and cover letter. Find a different word. In fact, skip the word altogether and go straight to the examples–the ones where you’ve volunteered, donated, started your own project, built, and succeeded in doing these things, and your passion rings true. You don’t have to say it anymore.

Social media. Two of the most generic words: media, how we communicate, and social, how we interact. So you’ve used “social media” to do … what, exactly? If you say you’re a social media strategist, I’ll look at you with glazed eyes, unsure if you just surf facebook or if you’re actually doing something more useful with your time. Tell me more specifically about who you are and what you do; what your objectives are, and what tactics, specifically, have worked in your industry and why. Everyone’s calling themselves’ a social media strategist nowadays. Don’t be one of them.

Just. Inserting the word “just” before any phrase undermines it’s strength. It’s a way of putting a clause in front of your work, of reducing the importance of what you do. I’m just a girl. I’m just an intern. I’m just doing my job. It’s an excuse, it’s bullshit, and if you’re just doing something, perhaps you shouldn’t do it at all.

Pretty. A filler word, used to reduce the value of other words. “Yeah, that’s pretty cool. … dontcha think?”

Kinda. See “Just” and “Pretty.”

If you use any of these words, imagine me hitting you each time you do it. Stop. And likewise, remember that bloggers usually write posts because they need to hear the words as well: give me a little nudge if I slide back into this lazy form of writing. I know that we can be more creative, more expressive, and more clear in our use of language to make the point that we’re trying to make. We have one of the most  a nuanced, elaborate language–a complex blend of German, Anglo, Saxon, Roman, Celtic, and multiple other influences.

There are a few recent posts I enjoyed — such as Alpha Dictionary’s 100 beautiful words list, which gives us 100 under-used words to add to our lexicon. Try them.


Any other terrible phrases, words, or commonalities that should be eliminated from our everyday vocabulary? Let me know and I’ll add them to this post if I agree. :)