The Weak Word Checklist

Not all words are created equal, and as a writer, you can devote many hours to finding the best perfect one.

While playing with word choice and re-writing sentences until you get them just right can help capture what you’re trying to invoke, a weak word can do the opposite.

But how do you know which exact words will pull the strength from your sentences? That’s a skill you’ll learn to develop as you grow as a writer. In the meantime, the following checklist is a good place to start.

The Rules

Use your Find/Search function to scour your MS for the following words.

  • If your sentence makes sense without the weak word – Delete it
  • If the weak word adds clarity – Keep it
  • If deleting the weak word makes the sentence better but confusing – Delete the word and rewrite the sentence

The Weak Word Checklist

Actually
Always
Back
Basically
Being
But
Certainly
Completely
Could
Definitely
Extremely
Feel
Felt
Generally
Got
Had
Heard
Just
Kind of
Like
Literally
May
Maybe
Might
Particular
Ponder
Possibly
Probably
Quite
Rather
Realize
Realized
Really
Right
Saw
Seemed
Seems
So
Somehow
Somewhat
Sort of
Specific
Start
Started
Such
Suddenly
That
Then
Thing
Think
Thought
Totally
Type of
Very
Virtually
Wonder


Feel free to add or remove any words to suit your style and voice. I recently worked through this checklist myself and here are examples from book one of my YA supernatural series.

Deleting A Weak Word For A Stronger Sentence

– Eve spoke, cutting Sarah off before she could even think about opening her mouth.
– Eve spoke, cutting Sarah off before she could open her mouth.

– …silently scolding himself for being so demanding
– …silently scolding himself for being demanding

– The glow sunk into his skin and he felt it burn in his chest, flooding his veins and awakening his muscles.
– The glow sunk into his skin and burned in his chest, flooding his veins and awakening his muscles.

– The buildings around him were dark and empty, but he didn’t feel alone. There were too many ghosts to keep him company.
– The buildings around him were dark and empty, but he wasn’t alone. There were too many ghosts to keep him company.

Deleting A Weak Word/s And Rewriting The Sentence

– Straight away, the lingering pain in his shoulder was crushed by familiar numbness, making Josh wonder if shutting the door had put a barrier between himself and the book.
– Straight away, the lingering pain in his shoulder was crushed by familiar numbness. Did shutting the door put a barrier between himself and the book?

– Sarah’s ballet flat kicked something in the dark. Her first thought was a box, but as soon as she turned on the light, she saw Josh collapsed on the floor, his head right near the tip of her black shoe.
– Sarah’s ballet flat kicked something in the dark. A box? As soon as she turned on the light, she found Josh collapsed on the floor, his head near the tip of her black shoe.

As you can see, removing the weak words improved the sentences. In some cases, it made them more active, which is the checklist I’ll be covering in the next blog post.

I hope you’ve been enjoying the checklist series. The first blog, The Delete Checklist, can be found here. Both checklists can be used alongside The Repeats when editing to help you craft a stronger story.

Until next week, happy weak word hunting!

— K.M. Allan

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23 thoughts on “The Weak Word Checklist

Add yours

  1. Excellent advice. I’m doing a read-through of one of the books in my series right now, and finding myself cringing at all the excess verbiage. I’m just reading for the big picture right now, but finding it difficult to ignore all the instances of “particular” and “suddenly.” I’m going to pay more attention, going forward, to some words you mentioned in your list (that I didn’t give much thought to previously!) Great post, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A perfect follow on from last week’s post! I am definitely going to be sat with my CTRL F key later, searching for how often these words pop up without adding anything to the sentence/making it too clunky. Great post, thank you ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This list pretty widely encompasses many problematic words, so thank you for posting it! It’s great to have it all in one place.

    I would take this just a step further and suggest a rewrite /every/ time one of these words (especially adverbs), rears its head, You can strengthen your prose by adding imagery. If it would become too clunky or ruins your pacing to add imagery, then simple deletion should do the trick just fine.

    Looking forward to reading more from you. (:

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This post was awesome! It was cool to see the examples, too. It’s crazy how hunting out these words and then rewriting them can make the sentences so much stronger. I find myself using “even” and “that” a lot, but I’ll have to add these words to my personal checklist.

    Liked by 1 person

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