“Crutch” words — this phrase tells a story, doesn’t it? And it’s a story we all know. Crutch words are those pesky little filler words that we all tend to over-rely on. While these fallback words may differ from writer to writer, the end result of using them is the same: they weaken our writing. We could also call them “clutch words” because we tend to reach for and cling to them out of habit: Familiar and safe, they keep us cozily ensconced in our comfortable zones. Here are some widely used crutch words:
Here’s the problem posed by these words — they’re boringly insidious. They sneak into our drafts. They’re like breathing — something we’re not even conscious of. What are some ways to get rid of them?
Identify your crutch words: Becoming aware of words you overuse is the first step to axing them. Reviewing 10 pages or so of a draft and circling repetitive words will help you see those you over-rely on.
Create a crutch list: As you begin to identify your particular “comfort” words, create a running list of them on your computer to help you keep them top of mind.
Search and replace them: Once you’re familiar with words you tend to overuse, plug them into your “find and replace” bar and work through your draft, revising it so that you use these words more sparingly instead of peppering them through your prose.
Consciously eliminate them: When writing a new piece, challenge yourself not to fall back on your comfort words. When you find yourself reaching for one, come up with a couple of more creative choices and go with the strongest.
Refreshing our prose is always a great idea as we all write on.