Here is One Word You Should Stop Using

Would you like to be a better writer?

Would you like to be a more effective public speaker?

Would you like to engage donors in conversations that are more meaningful?

I have some good news for you. Being a more successful communicator is easier than you think. Here is just one simple thing you can do immediately:

Stop using the word “very.”

A few weeks ago, Greta Vaitkeviciute, Advertising Manager at Altechna, shared the following terrific graphic on LinkedIn:


Reviewing the graphic reminded me of a conversation I had with my editor when I was writing my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

I confess that I was a frequent user of the word very. My editor called me on my lazy writing habit, and pointed out that very is a modifier that does not truly enhance the text. She went on to strike virtually all uses of the word from my draft manuscript. With some effort, I began to make the necessary edits. Soon, dropping very became second nature, much to the relief of my editor. I still included very in my book a number of times for tone and style. However, I used the modifier far less than I would have otherwise. As a result, my writing was much stronger, and I was able to communicate more effectively with my readers.

Having benefitted from scaling back my own usage of very, I can confidently recommend that you also weed out very from your communications.

Vaitkeviciute provided two-dozen great words you can use instead of very. The list could have been much longer. For example, never use the phrase “very unique.” Something is either unique or it is not; there are not various shades of uniqueness. Instead, you can say, “exceedingly rare,” “most unusual,” “one-of-a-kind,” or any number of more descriptive, appropriate phrases.

Here is an important tip to keep in mind:

Whenever you feel the urge to use very, take a moment to consider if there is a better way to express yourself. If you do, you will instantly be a better communicator.

What additional replacements for very can you think of? What other words do you wish people would stop using?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

30 Responses to “Here is One Word You Should Stop Using”

  1. Some of these words are beyond the 6th grade level though… Cheers, Erica

    • Erica, thank you for raising an interesting point. When writing, the experts say we should shoot for crafting text at a sixth-grade reading level. Even well-educated readers will find it easier to read simpler text. Personally, I never reach the sixth-grade goal though I often come close. I don’t mind writing (or reading) at a higher grade level (above sixth grade) providing it adds something of value and I’m not just pointlessly using thesaurus words. I try to balance the use of bigger words with shorter sentences and paragraphs which help with readability.

  2. Very Good! Oops! Excellent reminder.

  3. Thanks, Michael. This was very helpful … um … invaluable!

  4. Hi Michael, Great topic choice. I shared it with our fundraising team and had several people thank me for sending it out. You remain my favorite fundraising blogger. Hope your health is improving, that you are feeling well and that 2017 will be a good year for you

    • Patti, thank you for your kind comment. I’m touched. I’m glad my post resonated with you, and that you and your colleagues appreciated it. Regarding my health, I’m off to a good start in 2017, and I’m just taking it a day at a time. A great medical team, nutritionist, and yoga instructor have all been enormously helpful. I hope you and yours are enjoying a great start to 2017.

  5. I would add to the list: really, rather, little and pretty. I was taught by a keen journalism professor to avoid all of these over-used words, including “very,” and it does improve my writing!

  6. Good collection thanks for this……..

  7. Thanks! I learned what makes me a good writer.I Will stop using those words for the future. Thanks once again!!!!

  8. Helpful handy tip to which I give serious consideration. Thank you.

  9. Lovely stuff 🙂 Next step, rip out as many adverbs and adjectives as possible and supercharge our verbs. (I’m aware that supercharge is a verb that includes an adverb, but I think it still works no?)

    • Colin, thanks for your kind and fun comment. Just so you know, I break writing rules on a regular basis. However, I usually try to improve my writing and avoid being sloppy. It’s a constant struggle.

  10. I’m not an English major by any means. Actually I’m not good with grammar either. However this list is not a replacement for the word “very”. The list of replacements is technically a list of synonyms for the words that follow very. Not a replacement of “very”, as you editor stated “very” is a modifier.

    • L, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I understand what you’re saying. The thing is, the word “very” only has meaning when paired with another word that it can amplify. So, you’re correct when you suggest that the list in the post does not offer synonyms for the word “very.” Instead, the list provides synonyms for the very+ construct. For example, “noisy” and “deafening” are not synonymous. However, “deafening” is a synonym for “very noisy.” The point is that we can write with greater elegance and clarity if we stop trying to amplify a given word and, instead, use a better word.

  11. Thanks so much. This is really helpful. I’ve been searching for ways to improve my writing as a blogger. I find this very useful. Once again, thanks.

  12. How about this one: very angry… Enraged or incensed or furious. Depends on the situation.


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