What do the following words have in common?
They're perfectly good English words, right? How many times have you heard them in the course of a conversation? How many times have they crept into your writing over time? They are on a list of the one hundred most commonly overused words in the English language. But never fear. There's a book that addresses that. The title is A Cure for the Common Word by K.D. Sullivan. The back blurb on the book tells us our brains hold a vocabulary of more than 20,000 words, but we only use a small fraction of them. Instead we use the same words over and over. Words like interesting, good, and nice. I mean, how general and abstract are those?
Each word has a two-page spread with definitions, sample sentences, quotes, and an extensive list of synonyms. These can be found in any good thesaurus, of course, but the list breaks them down into parts of speech. Nearly 60% are adjectives and adverbs.
Let's take interesting, for example. The author provides ( I almost said gives, but it's on the list) 39 "cures," with seven "powerful remedies." Here are the remedies for interesting:
It's better than a thesaurus because the author zeroes in on the culprits. It's well worth the $14.95 list price. So, when you begin the revision process and find your prose or poetry ho-hum, grab this little gem of a book and start circling words.
FLEX YOUR MUSCLES
Write about the stain on the wall.