During the revision process of novel writing, you can quickly eliminate overused words and phrases once you know what some of these redundancies are. Please don’t feel ashamed if it has never occurred to you these words are unnecessary or overused; they plague the best of writers. The quick tip today is training the eye to recognize them so your work flows, it reads smoothly, and your writing is stronger.

Below are some lists of very common unnecessary and overused words and phrases.


Unnecessary Overused Words

    • is
    • are
    • has
    • that
    • just
    • a little
    • likely
    • probably
    • either
    • too
    • just
    • really
    • pretty
    • very
    • suddenly
    • all of a sudden
    • anyway
    • also
    • as well
    • looked
    • now
    • know
    • see
    • reach
    • even
    • watch
    • eyes
    • smile
    • however
    • although
    • though
    • all
    • got
    • often
    • almost
    • seem
    • think
    • very
    • bit
    • went
    • never
    • something
    • always
    • awesome

Overused Phrases and Idioms

    • it’s only a matter of time
    • calm before the storm
    • before she/he knew it
    • in a instant
    • opening a can of worms
    • let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding
    • not my thing
    • it’s not you, it’s me
    • pull a fast one
    • can I take a rain check?
    • you don’t know the half of it
    • what she didn’t know
    • ruffled feathers
    • missing the boat
    • curves in all the right places
    • around the bend
    • broke out of my reverie
    • larger than life
    • break a leg
    • happily ever after

Also look out for redundant pairs or words that describe the same thing. The following list from Purdue Online Writing Lab is great.

Redundant Pairs

    • past memories
    • various differences
    • each individual
    • basic fundamentals
    • true facts
    • important essentials
    • future plans
    • terrible tragedy
    • end result
    • final outcome
    • fee gift
    • past history
    • unexpected surprise
    • sudden crisis

There are hundreds of examples of words, phrases, idioms, and redundant pairs—too many to put into one article—but you get the drift. These are shortened lists, but you can  find more by searching the Internet. A great reference is an article by Richard Nordquist called 200 Common Redundancies.

Other Great Resources

Dead Words

Five Weak Words that Make Your Writing Less Effective

Awesome: The Most Overused Word In English

Commonly Overused Words and Phrases

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