Overused words and what to say instead

The Spice of Life

A few weeks back, we shared a post about “formal vs. informal emails”, and we can think of this as a bit of an extension on that, as the terms we’ll cover can be used in written just as easily as they can in spoken English.

When it comes to the richness of a language’s vocabulary, it’s a safe bet to say that English is at or near the top. Granted, it’s debatable, but I think we can all agree that there’s a huge range of ways to say pretty much anything in English. Or better, a wide variety. Or a significant choice. Or if you prefer, lots.

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Also

While ‘also’ is a great linking word, if you go too crazy with it, it’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Luckily, there are other words you can use in its place, such as:

  • In addition/Additionally
  • Furthermore
  • As well
  • Moreover

Other linking words are available, too, but they tend to be more specific. ‘Likewise’, for instance, can be used when linking similar things, while ‘however’ introduces a contrast.

Said

If you’re quoting several sources or people, you might find yourself using ‘said’ or ‘says’ a lot. Depending on the context, you may want to change the intensity of that. Whisper (speak softly/quietly) is quite different from shout, scream, yell, or holler (loudly), while mention (general reference), inform (more direct than mention, but less than instruct), and exclaim are all quite distinct as well.

To prevent repetition, try using these alternatives:

  • Claimed
  • Stated
  • Declared
  • Argued
  • Suggested
  • Explained

Bear in mind that some of these are specific to particular situations. For example, it would only make sense to use ‘argued’ if the person quoted is arguing something!

Interesting

Fingers crossed that’s what you’re saying about this post, or at least some variation of it. As I write in Microsoft Office, I right-click on “interesting” and I can see 10 different synonyms. There’s nothing “wrong” with the word interesting, aside from being a bit dull, boring, and overused. Instead, you can try;

  • Noteworthy
  • Remarkable
  • Striking
  • Intriguing
  • Significant
  • Fascinating
  • Riveting

I don’t know

A fun fact for all of our non-Italians reading this; a great way to express that you don’t know something is the classic utterance “boh”. Depending on the situation, “I might not be the best person to ask” or that “I’m trying to find the exact same information”, or even a more honest “Here’s what I do know.” Alternatively, you can consider on of these:

  • Let me check on that for you/us.
  • That requires a bit more research/investigation.
  • Based on what we know today, my thoughts are…
  • Let me be sure I understand which information you’re looking for…

In Conclusion

As everything, there are myriad possibilities, and some will depend on how you want to conclude. In some cases, you don’t need to signal that you are reaching a conclusion. There are a number of ways that are subtler. That also depends on whether or not you are writing a paper or giving a presentation.

  • To sum up/summarize
  • In closing,
  • Taking everything into account,
  • On the whole,
  • All things considered,
  • In a nutshell,

Please advise

Maybe it’s just me, but this bothers me to no end. I’m not sure at which point in the last years this become common business jargon, but depending on when and how it’s inserted into an email it can be somewhere between rude and downright passive-aggressive.

As an alternative, try one of these:

  • Let me know (when you have time)
  • Can you give me your thoughts, answers, or input?
  • I look forward to your answer/reply.
  • Thanks for your help.
  • Nothing at all

Tell me I’m wrong in the comments section and I’ll happily hold this debate with you, of course.

Until next time…

While there are some communications that have to use plain language to be accurate, day-to-day communication can get boring. There are only so many “Sounds good” and “Let me know” emails, texts, and Slack messages you can send and read each day without your eyes glazing over.

It’s not about showing off all the words you know, but adding a bit of variety is a great way to show your true self and the range of interesting… errr…, wonderful, great, awesome, spectacular, remarkable ideas that you have!

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Autore:

Shaune Peebles is a Canadian English teacher (and world traveller), with over 10 years' experience across Asia and Europe. Shaune discovered his teaching vocation in Guangzhou, where he worked for more than two years at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS) and at the Wall Street Institute (among others), before moving to Italy with his wife in 2009. A long-time language trainer in Milan, he completed a certification in Curriculum Development Instructional Design from Mt. Royal University in 2016, and is currently working as a Customer Success Manager for Docebo.